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Scouting Jets running back La’Mical Perine

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Orange Bowl - Florida v Virginia Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the draft now complete, we’ll be providing in-depth breakdowns of each of the draft picks and undrafted free agents. We continue today with the first of the Jets’ three fourth round picks - running back La’Mical Perine.

The 22-year old is listed at 5’11” and 218 pounds and attended college at Florida, where he rushed for 2,485 yards and 22 touchdowns in four seasons. Perine never had a thousand-yard season but racked up over 900 yards from scrimmage in each of his last two seasons and rushed for 100 yards in a game seven times.

Background

Perine comes from a family with an NFL pedigree. Two of his cousins - running back Samaje Perine and linebacker Myles Jack - are currently in the NFL.

He was a three-star recruit after rushing for over 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns in his last two years at high school. Having turned down an offer from Alabama, Perine decided to attend Florida.

As a true freshman, Perine was productive in a reserve role, posting two hundred-yard games as he ended up with 421 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also showed some big play abilities in the passing game as he caught nine passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

In his second season, Perine’s workload increased but he averaged a career-low 4.1 yards per carry. However, he rushed for a career-high eight touchdowns and led the Gators in rushing for the first of three consecutive seasons.

Perine’s junior year was his best season as he set career marks in rushing yards (826), yards from scrimmage (996) and yards per carry (6.2). Perine split the workload with Jordan Scarlett despite having being named as a starter.

In his senior season, Perine’s production as a runner fell off as he rushed for 677 yards. However, he ramped up his production as a pass catcher with 40 receptions and also set a career-high with 11 total touchdowns.

Perine attended the Senior Bowl, where he opened the scoring on a screen pass from Justin Herbert, then attended the scouting combine. The Jets ultimately selected him in the fourth round, with the 120th overall pick.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Perine brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

Perine was listed as 227 pounds before the 2018 season, but told the media he had made a concerted effort to cut weight prior to his senior year as he looked to showcase his versatility. He was listed at 216 for the combine but may have weighed even less than that through the season.

At the combine, Perine ran a disappointing 4.62 in the 40-yard dash and his agility numbers were below average. However, his explosiveness numbers were solid, including a 35-inch vertical, and his bench press (22 reps) was also good.

Usage

Having lost the weight, Perine played a more diverse role in 2019, with plenty more reps out wide or in the slot than he had played in the past.

In addition to being employed as a conventional running back, Perine has also played in multiple-back sets and has even taken some snaps as a wildcat quarterback.

Running ability

Perine was generally productive throughout his career with Florida, averaging 5.0 yards per rush. That’s impressive, especially given the fact that the Gators’ offensive line was poor for much of that time.

His running style is generally very direct. He’ll hit the hole hard, will take what the defense gives him rather than looking to be creative and is more likely to try to run over than around a defender in the open field. He doesn’t dance around in the backfield and won’t change direction suddenly or make spin moves very often, but has good balance and a low center of gravity.

However, he does display some impressive elusiveness and the ability to break tackles at times.

As noted, Perine split carries with other backs throughout his career with the Gators, so he hasn’t really established himself as someone who can carry a starter’s workload. In fact, he carried more than 20 times just once in his career. This was easily his best game though, as he rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries and added 93 more on four catches in a win over Vanderbilt. He did exceed that rushing total three times though.

While there are questions over Perine’s breakaway speed, he did break off several long touchdown runs over the course of his career and has shown the ability to get around the edge on outside runs.

As mentioned earlier, Perine dropped some weight before the 2019 season but has shown an ability to run with power. He’ll effectively truck defensive players at the end of the run and fall forwards and, on this play, he kept his legs churning and dragged Jamal Adams of all people for extra yardage.

Short yardage

Perine is particularly effective in short yardage scenarios. He had a reputation at Florida for being clutch and reliable in such situations.

Of his 22 rushing touchdowns, plenty have come from near the goal line and his ability to make a good quick read and find a way to break the plane is a good asset here. He can also run with some power.

Pass catching

Perine entered his senior year with just 32 catches in three seasons, although he had averaged almost 13 yards per catch and scored three touchdowns.

As a senior, he caught 40 passes and scored five touchdowns, although his average dropped below seven yards per catch.

He wasn’t just catching dump-off passes in 2019, though. Although he wasn’t a downfield threat, he lined up outside regularly and showed some basic route running ability.

Perine has big hands and didn’t drop any easy passes in his college career. The few drops has was credited with all came on plays where the pass was beyond his reach or disrupted at the catch-point.

On this play, Perine made a catch in traffic, although you can see how he’s not necessarily a natural pass catcher.

He was able to showcase some athletic ability and good concentration on this juggling catch in the end zone, though.

Ball security

As noted, Perine has big hands, but did fumble four times in his college career and will sometimes hold the ball away from his body when breaking through traffic. He’ll also risk the ball getting knocked away by reaching out to get to the first down marker or break the plane.

He didn’t fumble in 2019 despite increasing his highest number of touches in a season by 25, though, which is a good sign.

Blocking

Perine has some experience as a pass protector and is probably further along in this respect than most rookies. He will be the aggressor in these situations and looks good at times. He is also willing to chip before leaking into the flat and making himself as a possible pass catching option.

However, there are still some things he will need to work at before the Jets will be fully comfortable in trusting him to protect Sam Darnold on a regular basis.

On this play, he steps up too aggressively and allows the edge defender to get around him on the outside, despite a chip from the tight end.

That happened in 2017, though, and he hasn’t given up a sacks in the two years since then. However, he gave up a holding penalty on this play.

Perine has also made some contributions as a run blocker and in the passing game on screen passes and down the field. He makes an excellent lead block here to seal the defensive player to the outside.

Special Teams

In 2018, Perine was a core special teamer, getting plenty of work in punt coverage and limited work in kick coverage and as a blocker on return units. He made a couple of tackles covering kicks.

In 2016, he briefly saw some work as a kick-off return man and looked good on this 41-yard runback.

However, his only other three return attempts saw him average just 15 yards per return. He never fielded a punt while with the Gators.

Instincts

As a runner, Perine shows good vision, although he has a direct style so you won’t often see much patience from him. He operates best as a one-cut runner, as he shows here.

Scouting reports suggest he lacks second level creativity, but he has shown an ability to cutback and avoid tacklers at the second level to break into the clear.

He does show some good natural instincts to leak into open areas as a receiving option and to make himself available for a pitch on option plays.

In pass protection, Perine needs to keep working at recognizing and anticipating where pressure is coming from. On this play, he’s left looking in the wrong direction as the opposing defense bluffs a double A-gap blitz, then sends an odd-man rush off the edge, leading to a touchdown.

While this might partly be the quarterback’s fault, you’d ideally hope Perine could be on the same page with his quarterback in situations like this.

Attitude

Perine is regarded as a hard-working player with good character and was a team captain for the Gators in 2019. He is competitive and has an over-achieving attitude, but also showed a team-first mentality by buying into the decision to have him splitting carries with other backs.

Off the field, Perine was accused of battery after an incident involving a tow truck driver. However, he was not arrested and charges were dropped.

On the field, his discipline has been good, with just three penalties in his career and never more than one in any season. Two were for holding and the other one was for offensive pass interference.

Injuries

Perine played in 50 out of 50 games while he was at Florida, so he’s been durable in his career so far. He reportedly had a minor offseason surgery in between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, but the nature of that hasn’t been disclosed.

Scheme Fit

Perine’s direct running style should complement Le’Veon Bell’s more patient style well and he has the ability to contribute on passing downs as a blocker or receiver, although Bell obviously excels at these as well.

It seems likely Perine will be stuck in a reserve role and might not play much as a rookie unless there are injuries, especially since the Jets added Frank Gore. However, his role could increase in 2021 depending on Bell’s status.

Perine is at his most effective as a one-cut runner, both in zone and man/power systems. With the Jets operating a system that incorporates both aspects, Perine should have the vision to succeed within it.

Conclusions

While Perine lacked some of the athletic prowess and statistical production of some of the other running backs who would have been available at this point in the draft, he’s had an effective career, against a high level of competition, and his film shows a player who could become a versatile and dependent pro.

Compared with the picks on the first two days, Perine perhaps doesn’t have the same kind of upside. However, he has the potential to be a low-cost contributor over the next few years at a position where you can produce in volume if you earn reps.

Expectations for Perine to do much in his rookie season should perhaps be tempered because if Bell and Gore remain healthy, there might not be many opportunities. Perine might even find himself a healthy scratch at times. However, hopefully he can learn some things from the two veterans which will stand him in good stead if and when he gets his chance to contribute.