FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When the second day of the 2021 NFL draft began a few weeks ago, ESPN’s Draft Predictor assessed that there was a less than 1% chance that Oklahoma outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins would be available at pick 96 late in the third round.
The Draft Predictor factors in player grades, mock drafts and team needs to estimate the chance a player is chosen at a specific spot, and while that is often hard to pin down, the “Patriots Predictor” seemed to reflect something similar. The team pounced on Perkins, and afterward, coach Bill Belichick referred to him as a “disruptive, physical, versatile player.”
ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller had rated Perkins as his 40th overall prospect, further highlighting the unexpected development of him being on the board at No. 96.
That 1% projection, which might have been partially a result of Perkins serving a five-game suspension last season for a failed drug test, is timely to revisit this week as Perkins and his fellow rookies took part in the Patriots’ three-day rookie minicamp last weekend. The camp is essentially a 1% entry into the team’s way of doing things — a.k.a. an introductory course in Patriots 101.
In a reflection of this, the Patriots posted pictures on their website that included Perkins — aligned in a two-point stance at right outside linebacker — working with assistants Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo. There were no offensive linemen opposite of Perkins, just trash barrels to indicate where those blockers would be in a traditional practice.
It doesn’t get more basic than that.
With more coaches on the field than players, it also created an intimate teaching environment for Perkins, who along with his fellow rookies will continue this week as part of a development program that includes lessons on financial literacy, real-estate guidance as they transition to a new part of the country and media training, among other things.
On the field, the goal is to provide rookies a foundation in the team’s system, with a teaching approach, so they have a chance to compete come training camp.
“Ronnie’s a versatile player — he’s played on both ends of the line, left and right, strong side, weak side, he’s also reduced down and played some 3-technique,” Bill Belichick said after selecting him. “So if you watch him play, you get a number of opportunities to evaluate his playing strengths, especially against bigger people.”
Belichick cited Perkins’ “toughness, effort and instinctiveness” as assets.
Perkins, who said he admired watching Patriots Hall of Famer Willie McGinest, joins a suddenly stacked position headlined by big-money free agent Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy, who returns after one season in Miami.
Recent Day 2 draft picks Chase Winovich (2019 third round) and Anfernee Jennings (2020 third round) are also on the depth chart, along with developmental options Tashawn Bower and Rashod Berry and recently re-signed Harvey Langi.
It’s also possible that 2020 second-round pick Josh Uche, who displayed some dynamic rush skills off the edge in limited playing time last season, factors into the mix in some form.
Former Patriots scout and current Reese’s Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy is impressed with what is coming together in New England: “They’ve drafted some really cool pieces. … You can do a lot with those guys. They’re really building a defense with a lot of movable parts.”
While sacks don’t necessarily translate to success, the Patriots’ total of 24 last season were the fewest for any team with Belichick on the coaching staff in his 46 years in the NFL.
Perkins could help address that, with his initial on-field steps as a Patriot underway.