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The Tennessee Titans are undoubtedly looking to upgrade the defense this offseason and the 2021 NFL draft is full of talented and intriguing prospects who could potentially help a Titans team on the cusp of breaking through to legitimate championship-contender status.
Up until draft weekend, I will be breaking down some of the players that have been tied to the Titans the most and/or those prospects that intrigue myself.
This week’s prospect profile is going to be on the talented, explosive, and powerful EDGE from Oklahoma, Ronnie Perkins. Let’s take a closer look at what intrigues scouts the most about the disruptive Oklahoma product.
Name: Ronnie Perkins
Weight: 247 pounds
Collegiate Career and Accolades
Perkins was a four-star athlete coming out of high school and unlike a lot of highly-touted high school prospects, Perkins lived up to the hype on the field.
As a true freshman, Perkins led the team in sacks with five and was a constant nuisance in the backfield on third downs, which landed him Freshman All-American honors back in 2018.
The following season, the Oklahoma product wasted no time in picking up where he left off the previous year. In the season opener against Houston, Perkins was a man amongst boys, as he accounted for seven tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. The very next week against Baylor, Perkins recorded a career-high in tackles for loss (four) and sacks (three).
Although Perkins didn’t quite fill up the stat sheet like he did in those first two games, his presence was constantly felt by opposing offenses throughout the year, which landed him All-Big 12 honors.
Unfortunately for the Oklahoma product, despite dominant outings on the field, his 2019 season ended on an extremely sour note. Prior to his team's playoff game against LSU, Perkins and some of his teammates were suspended for failing a random drug test after testing positive for Marijuana.
This suspension ultimately lingered into the 2020 season, but Perkins was eventually allowed to return for his team's final six games of the season. It didn’t take long for the talented defender to remind everyone just how explosive he truly is.
Upon arrival, Perkins recorded a tackle for loss in every single game and began to flourish as a pass rusher. Once he knocked the rust off, he had a four-game stretch in which he recorded at least half a sack in every single game and looked like a surefire first-rounder who was ascending.
Perkins’ best individual performance of the season came in that span when he absolutely put on a show against rival Oklahoma State. The Oklahoma product was a headache for the Cowboys all night long, as he recorded five tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Following another strong performance against Florida in the Cotton Bowl, Perkins decided to leave for the 2021 NFL Draft. He would end his collegiate career with a respectable 98 total tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, and 19 QB hurries.
Perkins is one of the most explosive players in this draft class. He lives in the opposition’s backfield, both as a pass rusher and as a run stopper.
One of the most underrated aspects of Perkins’ game is how powerful he is, which often allows him to set a strong edge in the run game. There are multiple examples on tape of him forcibly pushing behemoth’s a lot bigger than him back from the line of scrimmage.
Perkins’ power and skill consistently manifest together as a weapon in the pass-rush as well. He often uses his strong hands to pummel his man at the line of scrimmage and once he gets any sort of leverage on you, it’s usually game over.
The St. Louis native is mentally sharp in how he attacks you as well; very seldom does it seem like he’s out there guessing. The Oklahoma pass rusher also has a diverse arsenal of moves in his repertoire and plays with an attitude and swag that his teammates feed off of.
Another aspect of his game that gets overlooked is his leadership abilities. During Perkins’ unfortunate suspension, his Oklahoma teammates raved about everything he was doing off the field to get them going.
Whether it’s helping the younger players, or being a menace on the scout team, the St. Louis native made sure his presence was always felt whether he was on the field or not.
Obviously you can start with the less than ideal suspension for a failed drug test before his team's playoff game. Clearly he had a lapse in judgement and teams will need to decide if that suspension is an anomaly or if there’s a chance that could become his norm once he gets around a ton of money.
The lone positive thing about that situation is the fact that it was a marijuana suspension and the NFL has become much more lenient with those types of offenses since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed to.
On the field, his rush lane integrity can be inconsistent at times, he can occasionally over pursue and/or try to do too much. There are other times he can get stuck reading/thinking, which slows his ability to react and leaves him flat-footed on some occasions.
He must also improve his ability to bend at the pro level — NFL coaches will need to develop that to get it more naturally consistent. Perkins also needs to address and develop a strong counterattack if he’s going to survive at the next level. If his initial moves do not work, he can lack an effective backup and seemingly banks on getting there off effort in those situations.
Fit with the Titans
The Titans need a violent, tone-setting presence along the edge and Perkins could definitely provide that. Last season, the Oklahoma product was the only defensive lineman to receive a grade of 90 or better in both run-defense and pass rush.
The Titans desperately need help in affecting opposing quarterbacks and over the last two draft classes, only Chase Young (27.2 percent) Josh Uche (27 percent), and Kwity Paye (26.5 percent) had a higher pass-rush win rate than Perkins has had (24.7 percent)
The ability to convert speed into power is something that seemingly always intrigues head coach Mike Vrabel and the current regime about pass rushers, and Perkins fits that mold to a T.
Picking the talented Oklahoma pass rusher at No. 22 might be a little rich, but if the Titans are able to trade back and/or he is somehow sitting there on Day 2 of the draft, it would be wise for Tennessee to pounce on someone with this type of potential.
Make no mistake about it, the answer to fixing the Titans’ pass-rushing woes can not lie solely on Perkins’ (or any rookie's) shoulders. The team must address EDGE in free agency if they are looking for an instant impact and improvement in 2021.
However, adding young pass rushers with potential is vital for this defense’s improvement. Perkins may not hit the ground running the way he did in college and may need some time to be polished up at the NFL level but if Tennessee is willing to play the long game, the team could unlock a special talent along the edge.