2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine

We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.

If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below.

Samaje Perine / RB Oklahoma 5’11 237 lbs #32

The Good:

– Keeps legs moving after initial contact
– Quick feet
– Hard to bring down due to good lower body strength
– Has a powerful stiff arm
– Quick burst to the hole
– Hard to keep out of the end zone on goal-line carries
– Elite balance

The Bad:

– Despite size, can not create space
– Limited as pass catcher due to bad hands
– Pass protection is a question mark
– A little on the stiff side


– 2016: 196 carries, 1060 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns
– Holds FBS record for most rushing yards in a game (427), set in freshman year
– Oklahoma Sooner’s All Time leading rusher with 4122 yards
– 49 rushing touchdowns is fourth most in Oklahoma history
– Voted one of Oklahoma’s four captains last season
– Missed three games last season with hamstring issues
– Had 21 rushing touchdowns as a freshman

Tape Breakdown:

Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine will not hear his name called on the first night of the upcoming NFL Draft but there are still many reasons to like the running back. Perine is not your typical 237-pound power back that lacks quickness, elusiveness and speed. Instead Perine combines his great strength with a handful of other assets such as acceleration and balance.

Perine’s rarely goes on down on first contact, those who attempt to bring him down are overpowered by the running back’s thick frame and drive. Upon initial contact Perine keeps his legs moving forward, driving him over the defender engaged.

Obtaining yards after contact is huge for a running back to succeed in the NFL, the capability to fight off the initial tackler could be the difference in a drive’s success. Perine’s ability to over power defenders is his greatest strength and also makes him a candidate for goal line carries.

Perine’s instincts often lead him to good reads on the blocks ahead of him and the running back will not hesitate to burst to a hole in front of him. Perine’s burst is better than you would expect for a 237-pound back, often propelling him to the second level in an instant. Watch below how Perine briefly reads his block and accelerates quickly through the hole.

Perine is a textbook downhill runner who accelerates to the first hole that presents itself. With Perine running full steam ahead, it leaves defenders either chasing from behind or run over from the back’s strength.

Though Perine lacks the speed to ever be classified as a back that can beat you up the sideline, the Oklahoma running back features a plus stiff arm that eliminates defenders trying to tackle him from a lateral pursuit.

Above is a great example of Perine gaining a first down on the perimeter after reading his blocks and avoiding initial contact. Watch how Perine bounces outside after seeing his fullback seal the edge defender. On the outside Perine disposes the Auburn defensive back’s tackle attempt with a powerful stiff arm, another compliment to the Oklahoma back’s game.

On to the negatives, Perine’s work on passing downs leaves room for improvement as the back will have to prove to be able to anchor and catch consistently to become a three down back in the NFL. Whether this is a matter of struggle or unfamiliarity is up for debate as Perine’s duties on third down were limited due to the talent of Oklahoma’s other running back Joe Mixon.

On the passing plays that Perine was featured in as a pass protector, I noticed that the back does not shy away from contact and anchors well for his size. As a pass catcher, Perine is a body catcher, doing well cradling balls thrown to him in the flat but struggles to use his hands to secure catches in the open field.

As seen above, a lapse in concentration leads to Perine dropping a pass that could have led to a big play. Perine never exceeded more than 15 receptions in any of his three years at Oklahoma, but for an extended NFL career, Perine will need to show he can be more of a weapon in the passing game.

Perine’s style of play reminds me of an Isaac Redman or Maurice Jones Drew type runner. Perine’s size fits more of Redman’s profile (6’0 230 lbs) rather than the shorter Jones Drew, but all three running backs enjoyed a similar style of play. All three maintained a stockier frame but had great footwork and balance that kept them elusive around the line of scrimmage.

The Steelers may be in the market for a back up running back to Le’Veon Bell this offseason and Perine could be their guy. With Bell a certain lock on passing situations, Perine will not have to worry about catching and could instead just be Bell’s reliever. In the end, talk of Perine to the Steelers may all come down to where running back falls on the Steelers’ list of needs. Perine’s draft stock seems to be more in the third – fourth round range; if the back falls to the Steelers in the fourth they may be tempted to add the former Oklahoma Sooner to their roster.

Projection: Late Day Two – Early Day Three

Games Watched: vs Auburn, vs Baylor, vs TCU, vs Texas Tech

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan Leggett

About the Author

Daniel Valente
Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel
  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t think he’s a good fit because of his weaknesses in the passing game. The Steelers have shown no interest in a “relief” back to spell Bell. They need a backup. A 3 dimension back that can come in if there is an injury and perform all the duties of a RB in this offense. No change of pace guys, no “2 down” backs. I don’t agree with this and think they need to spell Bell more, but they don’t and I don’t see it changing.

  • Josh Gustad

    I live in Oklahoma and loved watching him play. My friends that went to OU said he was a great guy. One of my friends that was a walk-on said he really works hard and has great attention to detail. Maybe not a great fit for us, just thought I’d share.

  • SilverSteel

    I would much rather have Mccaffrey due to his similar style of play to Bell. He is patient and a triple threat – run, catch, block. Unfortunately we have more pressing needs in the 1st round and he wont be there in the second.

  • Daniel Valente

    My next profile is Stanley “Boom” Williams, another back due to go in the later rounds. Very patient and quick, he might be a better fit for some of you guys

  • Steelers12

    what is his projected round

  • Daniel Valente

    Around the 4th round I’d say

  • Steelers12

    is he better than Gallman

  • Daniel Valente

    Have not had a chance to look at Gallman yet, I will have to get back to you on that

  • Applebite

    My guess behind Perine not being a pass catcher, is more for the fact, he never really got the opportunities to do so. He can catch, just probably not consistently. But he makes up for that in yardage gained down field. Not every RB is going to be a Bell type of RB. I think fans need to get it into their heads that Bell is the truest oddity at the position there is. Because even Mixon and Gallman aren’t in the same league as Bell.

    When Samajae gets into the 2nd level, watch out. He’s not the fastest man, He’s more quick than fast, but he’s one of the more powerful guys with the ball in his hands. He’s not going to go down easy and you’re not going to simply arm tackle him. So pretty much, your secondary is toast regardless. He’ll wear your safety down and corners don’t have a chance alone.

    I’m a Horns fan, and this is my favorite RB in this draft. I like Cook, the Steelers have no chance to get Cook. But they do have a chance at Perine. Other RBs I’d recommend to the Steelers are Jamaal Williams (BYU), Boom Williams (UK) and Wayne Gallman. They should do me a solid and get one of the three mentioned, since my pleas for Jordan Howard were ignored last year (and he was clearly available for 4 rds until the Bears picked him up in the 5th…).

  • Charles Haines

    I guess the RB in the draft comes down to wether or not they want a backup with a similar style as Bell, or a sledgehammer for short yardage and to eat some carries late in the game. If it’s the latter do you have an opinion on Foreman from Texas?

  • Spencer Krick

    I like his running style, he fits the mold an “off-speed pitch” to put behind Bell.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I like others better but could live with the pick in the mid rounds.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Would be a lot more effective at 225 imo..

  • LucasY59

    I think Foreman is going to be too slow for the NFL (think of Ron Dayne) he might have a little success, but will be a better college player than a pro

    I would prefer Perine to Foreman

  • LucasY59

    I think they are very different players, but I would project their draft value to be close, both could be options for the 4th rd pick

  • LucasY59

    I like that he runs with power and is hard to bring down, I thought his last season was the worst of his college career (but is still pretty decent) obviously he was splitting time with Mixon (so that contributed to his down season) but because of it (and the de-valuing of the RB position in the Draft) he should be available later in the draft and that makes him a good addition/value later

    I think Mixon would be the best on field fit for the Steelers (but I dont like off field issues, so he would have to drop to a later rd as well) I also like Connor (but will see how he does at the combine) Perine and maybe Gallman are the other RBs I like (McCafferey would be a good fit as well, but I doubt they would use the 1st pick on him)

  • Steelers12

    Ok i wouldn’t take a rb before the 4th round

  • LucasY59

    both could be available in the 4th