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Oklahoma Football- 2021 NFL Draft Profile: Ronnie Perkins

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OU’s star edge rusher may sneak into the first round.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Florida vs Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was a key moment for the Oklahoma Sooners. When the Los Angeles Chargers selected inside linebacker Kenneth Murray, it marked the first time since 2010 that an OU defensive player had been taken in the first round.

As a program, OU needs more of those kinds of proof points to sell to defensive prospects on the recruiting trail. They could get another this year, as some draft analysts are speculating that defensive end Ronnie Perkins could hear his name called Thursday night.

Ronnie Perkins’ Story

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Perkins, a native of St. Louis, arrived in Norman in 2018 as a consensus blue-chip recruit on the defensive line. He wasted no time claiming a spot in the rotation along the defensive front during his freshman season and appeared in all 14 games, starting seven of them. He managed to lead the team in sacks that season with five, which says a lot about the quality of OU’s defense in ‘18. Perkins’ freshman campaign also offered him a chance to showcase his versatility by shifting from a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end to JACK outside linebacker late in the season.

A year later, Perkins solidified his future as a five-tech DE in the one-gap scheme installed by new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. He tallied 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks on the season, both of which ranked second on the team. In what seemed to be a theme throughout his college career, Perkins put together arguably his best performance of the season in a must-win game at Baylor that saw him ring up three sacks.

Unfortunately for Perkins, a positive drug test for marijuana late in the season meant he didn’t get the privilege of being on the field to get smashed by LSU in the College Football Playoff, OU’s final game of 2019. Moreover, failing the NCAA-administered test knocked Perkins out of the first half of the 2020 season, too. A promising effort to get his suspension reduced in ‘20 stalled out when he reportedly failed to meet the requirements to regain his eligibility.

Perhaps motivated by the possibility of declaring early for the draft, Perkins played superb football when he finally did get back on the field for OU’s final six games of the season. He notched 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in that stretch, which included stellar performances versus Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Florida. It’s not a stretch to say his progress played an instrumental part in elevating OU’s defense to one of the better units in the nation by the end of the year.

Pro Day Results

Perkins did receive an invitation to the modified NFL Scouting Combine, and he went through actual testing at OU’s pro day in March. He gave a solid performance, but far from spectacular.

Perkins ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds, which would compare favorably with the better performers at the EDGE position who participated in the NFL’s 2020 combine. His 25 reps in the bench press won’t blow scouts away. His broad jump (32 inches) and vertical leap (125 inches) would have put him around the middle of his peers at the ‘20 combine. Meanwhile, a shuttle drill time of 4.69 seconds doesn’t scream “physical freak.”

Analyst Lance Zierlein of describes Perkins as a “very average athlete” who owes most of his production to his motor and knack for finding the ball. That seems like a fair evaluation.

Draft Projections

Despite the early buzz that Perkins was rocketing up draft boards, you won’t find many of the professional speculators who expect to see Perkins go in round one. Zierlein gave him a third-round grade, for instance. Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network seems fairly positive about Perkins, ranking him 44th among the top 150 prospects in this class. ESPN’s Todd McShay has Perkins at 38th overall, while his partner in auditory crime, Mel Kiper, ranks Perkins 40th on the ol’ Big Board and third among defensive ends.

Reading the tea leaves here, the odds that a team will pick Perkins on Thursday seem poor. More likely, he will get a call early-ish on Friday night from a team that takes the former OU standout with a selection in the second round.