As college football is fully nestled in its’ offseason, it’s time to turn our attention to the NFL Draft. A handful of Sooners are ready to take their careers to the next level, including Oklahoma’s all-time career rushing leader. In the months after setting the school record in the Sugar Bowl win against Auburn, Samaje Perine’s draft stock got a big bump following a standout performance at last month’s combine. The 5-11, 233-pound, bruising back impressed scouts with a strong workout headlined by his beastly 30 reps in the bench press, clearly displaying the superior strength and physical gifts he’d add to any pro backfield.
The Sooner Nation undoubtedly remembers Perine’s freshman season well. The bruiser from Pflugerville, Texas, arrived as a freshman in Norman already in the stout frame of a senior and immediately began his impact on the program as a starter following the suspension to fellow 2014 signee Joe Mixon. Choosing OU over Alabama, he broke out against West Virginia in a hostile road game in Morgantown, leading the Sooners to a win with 242 yards and four touchdowns and later followed that up with an NCAA record 427 yards on a rainy November day at home against Kansas. Samaje Perine was the rock of the OU offense for the three years he graced the campus of Running Back U, where he teamed up with Mixon in his sophomore and junior seasons to form the nation’s most potent backfield.
Through his 36 games and 30 starts at Oklahoma, Perine rushed 685 times for a school-record 4,122 yards (an average of six yards per carry) with 51 total touchdowns, along with catching 40 receptions for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His pass-catching abilities and versatility in the explosive, up-tempo OU offense oftentimes went understated due to the prolific numbers put up by Joe Mixon, but make no mistake — Perine is no one-trick pony.
Samaje Perine’s intangibles are also of great note for any franchise in the market for a rusher. The soon-to-be husband is a man of commitment and dedication. His leadership, attitude, work ethic and humility were a staple during his time OU, whether on the field, sidelines or locker room, and will continue to be wherever he goes next. The soft-spoken battering ram may not say much but will lead by profound example. Oklahoma fans know the true value of Samaje Perine and as high as it is on the field, it is likely as high if not higher off it.
Perine’s greatest asset is his strength and his build for goal-line and short-yardage situations. A prototype inside-the-tackles runner, he also possesses deceptive athleticism and agility, evident in a 60-yard shuttle time of 11.71 seconds, which ranked 4th overall at last month’s NFL combine. Considering his weight and stocky frame, that is quite impressive.
RB Samaje Perine (Oklahoma, 5'10", 235lbs). My goodness. He welcomes contact, and plows through it. That's what I like to see. pic.twitter.com/rkXDR5GYi4— My Colts Account (@MyColtsAccount) January 4, 2017
NFL Combine Workout Results
40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds (improved to 4.59 at OU Pro Day)
Vertical: 33 inches
Bench press: 30 reps
Broad jump: 116 inches
3-Cone drill: 7.26 seconds
40-yard shuttle: 4.37 seconds
60-yard shuttle: 11.71 seconds
Perine’s build, running style and skill set are similar to Maurice Jones-Drew or a not-quite-as-fast Michael “The Burner” Turner. All three are (or were) excellent inside runners and despite their big, stocky frames, possess the agility, footwork and balance to be elusive at the line of scrimmage and in the open field.
A few Samaje Perine runs vs Baylor 2015. Balance and hip flexibility at 235 lbs show up. pic.twitter.com/EYLfXw72Nv— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 19, 2017
While Samaje likely won’t be running away from as many defenders as we saw him do in college, he’s certainly no easy catch in the open field once he’s built up steam, either.
Overall, Samaje Perine has the potential to be a starting NFL back and could potentially give an offense 25 to 30 carries if need be. But his lack of elite speed — along with an injury history the last couple of seasons — will keep him on the board until Day 2. Along with most if not all college backs, Perine could also stand to improve when it comes to blocking as he prepares to enter the next level.
But his body and football IQ should help him get on the field sooner rather than later (unintentional pun, apologies nonetheless) for most teams who lack a big back. When healthy, Perine could be one of the biggest steals of this draft and is a true sleeper at the running back position. At the very least, he would provide a go-to guy (for teams and fantasy owners alike) at the goal-line and in short-yardage situations with the talent and potential of adding much more in the right system.
WalterFootball.com lists Perine as the No. 9 back in the 2017 NFL Draft and projects him to go in the Rounds, 3, 4 or 5. CBSSports.com is a bit more bullish, listing him as the No. 6 back and projecting him as a 3rd-Round pick. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com is equally high on him.
Samaje Perine’s Career Highlights