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
– 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
– 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
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