I’m not a huge fan of Nick Perry, but that has more to do with his stock rather than his ability. Before the 2010 college season I thought he could be a possible high pick due to the hype surrounding his recruitment, but a pre-season high ankle sprain curtailed his impact. It put paid to any plans to declare for the 2011 draft and he came back to lead the PAC-12 in sacks last season (9.5 sacks) and his stock appeared to be safely in the region of the second or third round. That was a comfortable grade based on the tape.
Fast forward a few weeks and he enjoys a spectacular combine, leading to the inevitable shift in where he’s being projected. At 271lbs he ran the third fastest forty yard dash among defensive lineman (4.64) and had the best broad and vertical jumps at his position. Perry benched 35 reps too. He looked the part in Indianapolis, leading SI.com’s Tony Pauline to note, “Perry turned in a workout for the ages. He was fast, posting 40 times in the low 4.6-second range at 271 pounds. He was strong, completing 35 repetitions on the bench press. Perry was also explosive and touched 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. He later looked incredibly athletic in all position drills. Perry solidified himself as a first-round pick. The question is how early will he be selected during the first 32 choices.”
Suddenly he’s in the top-20 and due to the Carroll connection, he’s a hot tip for the Seahawks. Russ Lande at the Sporting News has Seattle drafting Perry in round one. Dane Brugler at CBS Sportsline/NFL Draft Scout also has Perry at #12. Danny O’Neil took him for Seattle in the NFL Network’s beat-writers mock draft. There’s some method to the projection – the team needs a pass rusher and will almost certainly draft one in round one. Perry and Carroll have history at USC and Seattle’s coach made a point of naming ‘speed’ and ‘improved pass rush’ as key areas for the off-season.
At the same time, the tape doesn’t always match the athleticism. His display against Washington was impressive, but then there’s tape (see above) where he looks pretty good – but he’s far from great. Adam Schefter was asked about Perry in his most recent mailbag, and why he was falling a little after the combine hype died down. Schefter: “Because his performances in games don’t match up to the combine and workout numbers he puts up, Jay. What’s the old expression from NFL scouts – looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane? Not saying that Perry fits into that category, but I am saying he has worked out better than he has played. He still is expected to go somewhere in the second round, though, and even could creep into the bottom of the first if a team likes him enough.”
I can see where Schefter is coming from, and that’s why I continue to mock him in the middle of the second round. Here’s what I see…
For starters, the guy can bull rush. No problems there. When he lined up against finesse college tackles, he excelled. The Arizona game last year was a good example of this, where Perry dominated the left tackle simply by driving him back with good pad level and consistently getting an inside route. He wasn’t double teamed and the guard didn’t slide over to protect, so he had a constant path to Nick Foles and forced some bad throws early in the game. However, he isn’t likely to have quite that same success against pro-lineman.
As good as his bull rush has been, he’s not an explosive speed rusher. His first-step is just above average. He does have a nice lean round the edge if he can get the initial advantage. He seems to prefer engaging, using his hands before dipping inside. Considering the measurables on show in Indianapolis, you kind of expect to see more in terms of pure speed and burst. Unlike the Upshaw’s and Ingram’s who will play more of a hybrid role in Seattle’s defense, Perry would be more of a pure-pass rusher. He could slot in at the LEO or act as a nickel rusher. If you’re going to draft for that role, there are players (Whitney Mercilus, Vinny Curry) who are superior.
Overall he’s pretty stout and isn’t easy to drive backwards, but he can struggle against double teams and in a crowd versus the run. He won’t be a liability playing the edge especially if he stays at 271lbs, but neither is run defense a major positive. His motor is a little inconsistent and seems to ramp up only when there’s an opportunity. He doesn’t always make that opportunity himself. Against the pass he’ll try things – usually a spin move that needs work. Against the run, he seems to go through the motions a little bit.
Scott Enyeart – USC beat writer – offered some thoughts on Perry in a recent podcast for the Hawk Blogger website:
“Here’s a weird guy. He missed most of 2010, he basically played on one leg when he was playing, he missed a lot of time due to injury. You know, I don’t love Perry. I think he’s been a combine freak but the production on the field, it just hasn’t really matched up to where he’s going to be drafted. He had a good year this year but even then it wasn’t elite production. I think a lot of people are getting wooed by the numbers he put up at the combine and at the pro-day and just measurables and that’s the type of stuff you want, but where he’s going to get drafted I feel like it’ll be a reach. I remember during the fall, talking to people at SC and I was like, ‘so who’s going to leave early’ and they’re like ‘well he (Nick Perry) doesn’t like school so he’s gone’. You knew he was going to go before the season even started. At the time it was like, maybe he can sneak into the first round but then the combine rolls up and he performs like a freak and everyone wants to say the Seahawks are going to take him at #12 or he’s going to go in the top-15 and you know, I don’t see that.”
I like the guy, just not in the first round. If the Seahawks take a slightly different pass rusher in round one, it’s unlikely they’ll return to that area in the second. It’s going to be interesting to see where he eventually falls. There’s a lot of competition in that second tier of pass rushers which includes the likes of Whitney Mercilus, Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, Shea McClellin and Chandler Jones. The sheer potential of Jones, the production of Mercilus, the motor of McClellin – these are things that could put them ahead of Perry. In terms of the Seahawks, it’s also worth noting that Pete Carroll has already passed on some high profile, big-time athletes from USC. So while that might be one of the more logical reasons he could end up in Seattle, it probably won’t be a difference maker unless Carroll just flat out loves his potential.
I still think he’s a solid second or third rounder. Thankfully we’re only two weeks away from finding out whether he will sneak into round one.
26 to attend the draft
Nick Perry will attend the 2012 draft in New York, along with 25 other prospects. Here’s the list in full: Mark Barron, Justin Blackmon, Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Quinton Coples, Fletcher Cox, Coby Fleener, Michael Floyd, Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, Robert Griffin III, Dont’a Hightower, Stephen Hill, Melvin Ingram, Matt Kalil, Dre Kirkpatrick, Andrew Luck, Shea McClellin, Nick Perry, Dontari Poe, Rueben Randle, Trent Richardson, Devon Still, Ryan Tannehill, Courtney Upshaw and Kendall Wright.
As the draft becomes more of a prime-time event, it’s not surprising to see more of the high profile prospects attending. However, there’s something about seeing ESPN/NFL Network showing a guy on the phone pre-announcement that really takes the excitement out of the draft. It’s time the NFL banned camera’s in the green room, or only showed a prospect’s reaction after the pick is announced. Having the first six picks ruined was always bad enough, having virtually a whole round ruined will be unbearable.