Everyone has heard about the explosive running back out of Oklahoma who is leading so many discussions right now as to where he should be drafted, but this isn’t about Joe Mixon. Instead, this is about the 5’10” 235 pound bruising back that is Samaje Perine. This record-breaking rusher (surpassed Melvin Gordon’s single-game rushing record in 2014 just one week after the now Charger broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s long-lasting mark) amassed over 1,000 yards in all three of his collegiate years and scored a total of 51 touchdowns. His production took a bit of a dip in 2016, going from 6.0 yards per carry to 5.4, but that can partially be attributed to splitting time nearly down the middle with Joe Mixon.
Where he wins
Bringing down Perine is a task most probably wouldn’t want. The first thing that jumped out at me about him was how rarely he would be phased by contact up high, he simply brushes it off like some minor inconvenience. Adding to that, his incredible balance allows him to break tackles with relative ease no matter what. Arm tackles simply aren’t going to get the job done against him. He is great at lowering his shoulder and powering through contact, getting low through the line of scrimmage and running behind his pads.
Another area Perine excels in is his cutting/vision behind the line of scrimmage. You will regularly see him be decisive in his runs and make one cut and go. He accelerates well out of his cut and, in spite of his lacking in long speed, was able to have a number of long runs due in large part to this. When you turn on his tape you will quickly notice two tools of his which seem to be his strongest; the stiff-arm and the jump cut. He wins so many of his one on one match-ups and a number of them are directly due to these abilities he has mastered.
In the above clip, you will see him use his cutting ability and show off his balance/power by running through contact. This wasn’t exactly a rarity during his time in Oklahoma. I reviewed four games of his and these qualities were on display constantly. By the end of the four games, I was able to remember specifically each run that went for a loss or no gain, it was that uncommon. Now while he doesn’t have a ton of experience in blocking, he shows a willingness in doing it however he will need to make this a focus going into his NFL career. In the first clip below you will see him blow up a defender while run blocking, and in the second he keeps his legs driving to power through contact and reach for the touchdown.
Where does he need work?
As I alluded to above, his pass blocking isn’t the strongest and will benefit from making that a focus going forward. Also, he doesn’t have much experience receiving as he only caught 40 passes over his three years at OU. Although he didn’t get many opportunities, I noticed that even when he would go out on a route he didn’t appear to be giving it full effort. That could be due to a number of factors, of course, just something I took note of.
He is clearly lacking in long speed and while I like his acceleration through his cuts at the LOS he doesn’t seem to have much burst anywhere else. Once he gets going he’s a freight train, but the time it takes for him to get going could be an issue depending on the system he’s in when he reaches the NFL. His bread and butter could be short yardage situations and goal line initially, especially in a running back by committee type of system, so this may not be much of a problem.
How he fits the Chargers
A number of mock drafts that I have seen are slotting Perine anywhere between the 3rd and 5th round. With potentially losing both primary backs behind Melvin Gordon (Oliver and Woodhead), it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see the Chargers go for a running back around that range. Perine is a guy who would be a great option between the hashes to pick up the tough yards when needed and be the main guy to spell Gordon. This would allow Gordon to still show off his skills in the receiving game that he displayed in the 2016 season while not taking him off the field unnecessarily like many are concerned would happen if Woodhead or a similarly styled back were to be brought in going forward. When I saw someone compare him to Michael Turner I thought it was a bit of a reach, but after watching him I think there’s a bit of truth to that and I feel he would be a great addition to this roster.