Running back La’Mical Perine proved Gators don’t sweat as he tweeted “Patience”—a virtue he possesses both on and off the field—while awaiting his turn to be chosen in the NFL Draft.
Many suspected Gang Green would address the position due to lack of depth and Le’Veon Bell’s questionable return for the 2021 season. With their first pick (No. 120) in the fourth round, the New York Jets selected the bruising runner out of Florida.
During his four seasons with the Gators, Perine recorded 2,485 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 493 carries—leading the team in all three categories from 2017-2019. Perine, a master craftsman in the passing game, posted 40 receptions this past season while registering 72 catches for 674 yards and eight touchdowns throughout his career.
To gain more insight into the player himself, I reached out to respected analyst Matt Waldman, Senior Staff Writer for FootBallGuys.com and author of one of—if not—the best publications available, “The Rookie Scouting Portfolio.”
Below are some highlights from the interview:
Joe Belic: The Jets run a predominantly zone-based system; how do you see Perine fitting in?
Matt Waldman: “He’s going to fit in just fine there. He’s the type of back a lot of teams will value higher than maybe fans will at first because he does everything pretty well. He’s a patient zone runner. He has good balance. He’s the type of player that’s going to be able to work towards the line of scrimmage, maintain his track towards the blocks he’s supposed to use to set up any kind of cutback or bounce out, or as the block develops just cram it in there. Because generally, with a zone-blocking scheme, you have those three options: a cutback, a cram, or a bounce. He’s adept at being able to do that. He has enough burst to get through creases well once he sets them up and buries his footwork. He has enough balance that he’s able to work through any type of contact: a defender reaching for him or trying to grab him and still be able to maintain his track downhill, and he can push for extra yards. He’s definitely a strong enough guy to do that. So, when you think from the standpoint of running the football, he’s a fairly refined player for the zone scheme. He’s not a special athlete, but he’s certainly athletic enough to be able to contribute for an NFL offense.”
The backside tackle fails to execute the cut block, but Perine does a solid job of identifying the cutback lane, getting downhill, and finding pay dirt.
JB: Some have suggested Le’Veon Bell isn’t a good fit for an outside zone run scheme. Do you agree, and how does Perine compare to Bell?
MW: “Perine can be competent as an inside or outside zone runner. I think he’d be better as an inside zone player because he doesn’t have quite the burst to be a top-notch outside zone runner, but he’s certainly going to be competent enough to do the gig. I would say you look at his feet and burst and you got a guy like Bilal Powell playing for the Jets for a while who was a very competent runner and may not have had top top speed, but certainly could get into the secondary; I think Perine is kind of that way.
Then, when you talk about Bell. I think a lot of people look at Bell, and they characterize him in a way where he becomes a caricature of his own game. What happens is people see him playing that peek-a-boo style where he can wait until the very last moment and kind of force a defender to play games…Bell will work deeper inside to a point where he forces the defender to abandon his position, and then he’ll bounce it outside or in wherever that defender wasn’t. People see that, and they say well he’s not going to be disciplined because he’s going to dance too much running an outside zone system. Well, I’ve watched Le’Veon Bell since he was a Michigan State, and Le’Veon Bell has no problem running outside zone. In fact, he has the burst to do it, he has the footwork; he understands how to manipulate blocks. Just because he has an advanced understanding and unbelievable quickness to be able to do things that most backs can’t, doesn’t mean that he has a problem with decision making. It just means that he’s extraordinarily good at being able to do things that other backs can’t.”
Perine bounces it outside, accelerates, and showcases the long-striding speed necessary to take it to the house.
JB: Do You think Perine is a good complement to Bell?
MW: “I think he’s a good complement to Bell in the sense that you get a guy, that if Bell gets hurt or he needs a breather, you can bring Perine in and he could do the job. He’s a decent blocker who’s going to get better, he’s a very good receiver for a college prospect, and he’s going to come in and make plays for you both on and off script and, again, he can run for power, he can get outside, all those things are good. For me, the way I would describe Perine in a nutshell: he’s the type of back that NFL coaches love because he may not necessarily be a starter, but he’ll be a bargain in the mid-rounds who can start for you for extended games if needed, and with a good line around him can produce. But, he’s not the guy you’re necessarily looking for to be the year in year out starter.”
Receiving: Perhaps Perine’s greatest strength is his versatility in the passing game. He posted forty catches last season while being flexed both outside and in the slot. At the very least, his prowess as a receiver and sufficient blocking will be useful as a third-down back.
Power: Perine is a downhill grinder with no issue running full steam ahead and pushing the pile whenever necessary. There is no quit to his game, and he’s all gas as he puts the pedal to the metal; his 3.73 yards after contact per attempt is a testament to his relentless drive. However, unless Perine’s built enough momentum, he can struggle in this regard.
Contact Balance: Perine routinely keeps himself upright as he bounces off defenders in head-on collisions and continues moving forward for a positive gain. It’s a sight to see how seamlessly he’s able to adjust to a direct hit. A word of advice: don’t ever get into a game of chicken with Perine; you’ll lose.
Vision: Perine is a patient runner and knows how to set up blocks accordingly. He’s crafty when pressing the line of scrimmage and manipulates defenders before exploiting a cutback lane or a bounce out. However, there are times when he doesn’t commit to the most logical running lane, and he needs to get better at making quick decisions.
Speed: Perine clocked a pedestrian 40 yard dash (4.62) at the combine. Nonetheless, he’s exhibited the lateral quickness necessary to reach the perimeter in stretch runs. In addition, Perine does a nice job of bursting through a hole and utilizing his acceleration to explode for the big play and get to the second level.
In contrast to earlier picks Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton, who possess a tremendous amount of upside, Perine is a seemingly low ceiling but high floor prospect and, initially, I wasn’t thrilled with the pick. However, after discussing Perine in detail with Matt Waldman, I came to the realization that Perine is a good fit for the Jets. While I never expect Perine to be a feature back, I understand the value of having a hardworking and reliable player who can be depended upon. His versatility in the passing game and determination running the ball will have Jets fans appreciating his blue-collar approach.
“I’m a hard-nosed runner, a competitor, a person who does not like to lose. I’m just a hard-working guy, and I’m able to be versatile and catch the ball out of the backfield. I feel like me, and Le’Veon Bell will be a great duo.” –La’Mical Perine
NFL combine results:
- 5′ 11″ 216 lbs., 31 5/8″ arms, and 10 1/4″ hands
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.62
- Bench Press: 22 Reps
- Vertical Jump: 35 inches
- Broad Jump: 118 inches
- 3 Cone Drill: 7.13
- 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.31 seconds
2019 grades, according to PFF:
- Overall Grade: 75.2
- Rushing Grade: 76.3
- Zone Grade: 71.7
- Gap Grade: 71.4
- Elusive Rating: 69.1
- YDS After Contact/ATT: 3.73