NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nick Perry, DE, USC

Nick Perry“During the past two seasons, Perry has flashed the ability to dominate opponents and be a real difference maker for the USC defense.  What’s impressive is his production against top competition.  There is some great film evidence of his natural athleticism on display.  He put himself on the map as a freshman in 2009 when he was matched up against, and often beat 2011 1st round NFL pick Anthony Castonzo (Boston College).  Throughout his career he has been very productive when matched up against projected top fifteen 2012 draft pick Jonathan Martin (Stanford).

Despite being undersized for a defensive end, Perry has shown the ability to explode underneath offensive linemen’s pads and separate himself from the blocker to make plays at the edge but he is simply not consistent enough in doing so.  Once he understands how to use his explosive first step in variation to keep linemen guessing, he should develop into a more effective run defender.  Overall, Perry is a gifted athlete with the tools to become a dynamic edge rusher but teams need to be patient as his technique develops.”

  

PLAYER COMPARISON
Anthony Spencer, Cowboys
PROJ. DRAFT POSITION
1st-2nd Round
INJURY HISTORY
No significant injuries   

CAREER ACOLADES
Freshman All American in 2009   
First team All-Pac 12 in 2012

KEY STATS
Career: 23 sacks 29 TFL   
9.5 sacks 12 TFL, 2 FF in 2011

    

  Background/Character
Perry stepped onto the scene as a highly touted recruit and worked hard to become one of the nation’s premier defensive ends.  He’s a natural athlete who was very productive as soon as he broke the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman, leading the team in sacks that year and sustaining that type of productivity throughout his career against top offensive tackle competition.  He has shown proper work ethic during each offseason to overcome a slew of injuries and eventually top the depth chart as a full time starter.

On a roster jam packed with talent, he has beat out a number of top recruits to become one of the team’s top defensive players.  He is still a bit raw in terms of overall technique which raises questions about his ability to learn and implement what he’s coached on.  While he generally executes his assignments properly he has not shown much polish in his game which raises some questions about his ability to grasp the game and put into action what he is taught in practice and in the film room.

Athleticism
Perry is an excellent athlete with adequate size for the position.  He is a quick twitch athlete with an explosive element that makes him one of this year’s top edge rushers.  His suddenness is tough for opposing linemen.  He runs well and has above average straight line speed for a defensive lineman and can really stride it out when he needs to.   He has begun to fill out his frame in the past two years and shows above average strength on the field but does not always play with the strength or power you’d like to see from his position.  He can really help himself in this area by adding more overall bulk.

For such a good athlete, Perry has some stiffness issues that limit his change of direction ability.  He plays high too often and does not show a natural bend at the waist.  He flashes the ability to stay low and use sound footwork to change direction quickly but must work hard to become consistent with his leverage and in maximizing his power.

Ability
The biggest strength for Perry, by far, is his initial quickness and explosiveness off the edge.  His first step is deadly and offensive tackles, including Stanford’s LT Jonathan Martin, really had fits beating his jump off the snap.  He has an aggressive style when rushing the passer and plays with a good motor in that facet but you don’t see the same effort with plays away from him or against the run in general.  On film you will see some plays where he’s jogging to backside run which is frustrating when you know he possesses the speed and athleticism to make those plays. 

While Perry is typically able to identify and react adequately to the run and pass, he isn’t an overly instinctive player and he’s “very pass rush minded.”  This mentality causes him to overcommit upfield and often give up the edge on delayed running plays.  When teams run at him he gives an initial effort to disengage using his quicks and strength but when he loses the battle early he tends to tone the aggressiveness down and can get positioned out of the play.

 
Technique
Nick PerryProbably the biggest area for improvement for Perry is his overall technique.  In college, Perry was able to beat offensive linemen using pure athleticism but he must learn more rush moves.  He is really only effective as a speed rusher off the edge and depends mostly on his initital quickness of the snap.  He has a strong upper body to slap away offensive linemen’s hands from his body and typically uses his long arms to keep himself clean turning the corner.  When bull rushing, Perry uses above average power and his explosive lower half that can jolt linemen backward.

When he wins that battle he uses his length and quick hands to establish position to commit to the backfield or shed. The main concern with Perry is that he hasn’t developed an effective counter game.  If he doesn’t win the edge initially he doesn’t have any effective counter moves to readjust his path and work the inside shoulder without sacrificing leverage and allowing himself to be engulfed by OL.  Against the run, particularly with the run at him, Perry does not use his hands well and despite playing with good leverage, bigger Olinemen can move him out of the play.

Strength/Power
At 6-3 and over 250 pounds Perry generates adequate power and is able to maximize that power because he is so explosive.  When he gets off the line he is capable of blowing up offensive linemen when he gets into their body and possesses a strong punch but struggles to anchor after that initial “shock”.  His lack of overall strength is exposed against the power run game where he lacks that foot plant and anchor ability to set the edge.

He plays with good leverage initially which helps him win that initial point of contact but the combination of a vanilla rush arsenal and his underwhelming base make it tough for him to maintain his pad level to keep linemens’ hands out of his body.  When he gets a good pop at contact he displays good timing and savvy in setting up his next step to win the shoulder and uses his long arms to keep clear of linemen’s hands.  With added bulk and strength Perry should become more stout against the run and should be able to maximize his athleticism to become a more versatile pass rusher as well.

Summary
During the past two seasons, Perry has flashed the ability to dominate opponents and be a real difference maker for the USC defense.  What’s impressive is his production against top competition.  There is some great film evidence of his natural athleticism on display.  He put himself on the map as a freshman in 2009 when he was matched up against, and often beat 2011 1st round NFL pick Anthony Castonzo (Boston College).  Throughout his career he has been very productive when matched up against projected top fifteen 2012 draft pick Jonathan Martin (Stanford).  Perry’s natural athleticism is undeniable and even though he is slightly undersized for a pro defensive end, he has the ability to rush the passer from a stand up position or add bulk and strength to rush from a 3-point.  For a guy who’s niche is rushing the passer, Perry’s pallette of rush moves is very limited and very raw.  His athleticism was obvious in college and that is what he got by with but he must learn more moves, especially when countering as he is extremely limited when he’s forced inside.

Still, teams will fall in love with his natural abilities and physical attributes enough to believe he can develop into a dynamic pass rusher.  Because of questions about his anchor, Perry is probably best suited as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme as he has shown the ability to drop back into coverage and make plays in space as well.  There are some questions about his ability to maneuver in space which are legitimate as he is a bit tight-hipped and would be limited to coverages no more than 10 yards down field.  He lacks the fluidity to play man coverage and would struggle to turn and run with receivers in the NFL, particularly with the continuing emergence of the super-athletic tight ends.  As mentioned, Perry leaves alot to be desired in the run game as consistency is his main issue.  Despite being undersized for a defensive end, Perry has shown the ability to explode underneath offensive linemen’s pads and separate himself from the blocker to make plays at the edge but he is simply not consistent enough in doing so.  Once he understands how to use his explosive first step in variation to keep linemen guessing, he should develop into a more effective run defender.  Overall, Perry is a gifted athlete with the tools to become a dynamic edge rusher but teams need to be patient as his technique develops.

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