Dynasty Draft Profile: Paul Perkins
April 8, 2016 | Rich Hribar
UCLA has been long removed from consistently funneling NFL offensive talent through their system, but Paul Perkins has been one of their most productive players since the turn of the century. After redshirting in 2012 and a year of being a backup, Perkins thrust onto the scene in 2014 with 1,773 yards from scrimmage. His 1,572 rushing yards as a junior were the second most in school history. He followed that season up with another 1,585 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdown season this past year before declaring early for the NFL draft.
Despite putting up strong counting stats, Perkins lacked high-end efficiency compared to other backs across the country. Just 39.7 percent of his carries went for five yards or longer, which ranked 60th of the 155 backs to have 100 or more carries on the season. The lack of consistently good runs is an issue when you consider that Perkins is essentially a complete spread back. Per Pro Football Focus, all but five of Perkins’ rushing attempts this past season came from shotgun or the pistol.
At the combine and his pro day, Perkins chose not to participate in agility drills. Of the drills he did take part in, the only area where he measured in the top third of percentiles for running backs was the broad jump. Combining his lackluster physical profile with his undersized frame, Perkins registers in the 28th percentile measured against NFL running backs athletically per Three Sigma Athlete.
Pulling up comparisons for Perkins through an objective lens of physical profile and final season production and you can totally see why Perkins profiles as an ancillary back for an offense on top of the way he was used in college.
There’s a little meat on the bone here as both Vereen (three) and Powell (two) have combined for five top-36 PPR scoring seasons over their careers, but just one top-24 one. Of the entire group of cohorts, only Powell in 2013 topped the 150 carry mark in a single season and on average 59 percent of the group’s fantasy output has come from receiving production per season.
Perkins is fairly scheme dependent as a runner because of his subpar size and athletic profile. He doesn’t generate power through sizable defenders and needs a high dose of outside zone runs where he has the freedom to pick his point of attack. Although he skipped those aforementioned agility drills, it’s probable that he could’ve done well in them as Perkins has some of the best subjective footwork in this class and arguably the best jump cut in this class. An “in space” back is where Perkins shines the brightest as he can showcase his pass catching ability and elusiveness.
UCLA running back Paul Perkins had 85 players miss tackles on his carries and catches which is 2nd best among draft eligible RBs
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 24, 2016
Perkins doesn’t struggle to create yardage on his own, but as mentioned in the open, he lacks the long speed to outrun defenders once he creates that separation. That’s not a death knell to his future outlook, but his pass catching ability and elusiveness in small areas do mask the fact that he’s a one gear runner, which could be problematic for him at the next level.
One gear runners do struggle in creating long, productive careers for themselves consistently in the NFL, but at least Perkins does have that pass catching ability in his back pocket as compensation. He did a lot of work out of the backfield, catching 80 passes over the past three seasons, the most for a Bruins back over the duration of his career.
His lack of desirable size shows up in pass protection as well, as he allowed 10 pressures on just 105 attempts in protection per Pro Football Focus, only better than Tyler Ervin of backs available in this class.
Perkins is a pretty clear cut evaluation in my opinion and the type of player that I believe is a trap in real and fantasy football if you’re committing high capital investment into acquiring him. While it’s easy to get lured into him aesthetically from making defenders miss in space and catching the football, the highest probability in his range of outcomes for NFL success is a productive committee back, something that is completely replaceable on a real and fantasy level.
The good news is that his current Dynasty ADP for rookie drafts is sitting right at 20th overall, something that isn’t going to break the bank on your end if you’re interested in his services and believe that he’s more, but still above players I would rather roster such as Malcolm Mitchell and Keyarris Garrett. If I’m looking to add an in space back as an arbitrage to Perkins, you can make a play for Wendell Smallwood or Tyler Ervin much later or take a shot on higher all-encompassing backs such as Keith Marshall or Daniel Lasco with less production but more projectable physical upside.