2021 NFL draft: Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins belies his size as hard-charging rusher

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

41. Oklahoma EDGE Ronnie Perkins

6-foot-2, 253 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.90 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Highly productive edge rusher who plays with fire, but a lack of size could cause issues

Games watched: Iowa State (2019), Kansas (2020), Baylor (2020), Florida (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 128 nationally), Perkins stepped in right away for the Sooners in 2018 as a true freshman, making 37 tackles (eight for losses), five sacks and one pass defended in 14 games (seven starts). In 2019, he collected 38 tackles (13.5 for losses), six sacks and one forced fumble in 13 starts, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors.

Perkins was suspended for OU’s semifinal playoff game against LSU in 2019, plus the first five games of the 2020 season, reportedly for a positive drug test. He played in six games (five starts) last season and earned second-team all-conference mention with 24 tackles (10.5 for losses) and 5.5 sacks. Following the season, Perkins declared early for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Arrived on campus as a true freshman ready to wreak havoc. Enough athleticism to stress the edge. Fires off the ball and flashes the twitchiness sought in an undersized rusher. Keeps his hands and feet firing throughout the rep.

Tackle-for-loss machine — 22.5 TFLs over his final 15 contests. Bursts into the backfield and makes things happen. Effective on stunts and twists and can tax interior blockers with his speed, quickness and closing ability. Operates with a low center of gravity. Slippery — tough target to hit for tackles.

Converts speed to power well. Flashes great dip-and-rip move, as well as a quality long-arm rush. Check out Perkins here against Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, a possible first-rounder, putting the Cowboys’ country-strong right tackle on his tail (something few players did to him):

Works hard to stop the run. Better-than-expected testing number on the bench press (25 reps). Will take out lead blockers and doesn’t duck head-on collisions. Effective chasing mobile QBs. OU defense was a different beast with him on the field — Sooners allowed 17.5 points per game with him out there, 33.5 in four games vs. FBS opponents without him.

Motor always revved up. Praised for his leadership. Made tangible strides in his development each season. Made hustle plays tracking down ball carriers from the backside. Tough and feisty demeanor. Attacking mentality.

Downside: Needs to engage and unlock his upper-body strength better. Ideally needs to add more body armor, but dropped weight over his three years — arrived in the low 250s in 2018 but played in the high 240s last season. Lacks great length to play in the trenches. Has a narrow frame that might support only so much added bulk well.

Not a freaky athlete. Not a true edge bender with great flexibility. Pro day workouts were up and down — middling numbers in the vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (115 inches) and 40-yard dash (4.74 seconds). Strength doesn’t match at the point of attack with his bench-press number.

Must diversify his rush — pushes all his chips to the middle with his first move and doesn’t show enough countermeasures. Rocks back in his stance as a rusher and can get caught off guard, losing momentum at the snap. Not going to win many matchups when tackles get their hands inside on him. Needs better arm extension and more pop in his hands.

Oklahoma pass rusher Ronnie Perkins tries to fire up the crowd during the Big 12 championship game. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).
Oklahoma pass rusher Ronnie Perkins tries to fire up the crowd during the Big 12 championship game. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Racked up production vs. some overmatched protection — Baylor in 2019, Kansas in 2020. Very inexperienced in coverage — barely dropped last season and did it sparingly as a freshman. Will be raw in that department if asked to be a 3-4 OLB in the league.

Can fly into the mix out of control and whiff on tackle attempts. Overruns some plays and vacates his gap. Gets washed out a bit too easily vs. the run — harder edge-setting required. Some teams tried to run right at him.

Suspension raises potential red flags — it must be fully vetted and could hurt his stock in a fairly deep class of EDGE prospects. Committed rash of undisciplined penalties in 2020 — offsides, face mask and personal foul. Can get mouthy on the field and could earn NFL refs’ attention.

Best-suited destination: Perkins might not be instant coffee in the league, whether he’s asked to be a down rusher in an even front or a stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 system. His lack of bulk and good but hardly elite physical traits might hold him back, along with the lack of diversity in his game. But you can’t teach Perkins’ pass-rush knack and fearless style, and he’d be a great fit in a slanting/twisting front, so there’s a place for him on a team where the expectations can be properly tempered for his longer-term development.

Did you know:Perkins’ mother started calling him “Man Man” at an early age for his propensity for mixing it up with his older brothers despite being the youngest of six children. Ronnie even would run onto the field — without pads — and dive into piles during their games.

Player comp: Jerry Hughes, who took a few years to find his footing in the league but has become a terrific NFL player.

Expected draft range: Rounds 2 or 3

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