Cowboys Draft: The Best RB No One is Talking About

Nov 7, 2015; Corvallis, OR, USA; UCLA running back Paul Perkins (24) picks up a first down during the first half in a game against Oregon State at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Corvallis, OR, USA; UCLA running back Paul Perkins (24) picks up a first down during the first half in a game against Oregon State at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cowboys need to find a young ball carrier and with the 2016 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, this overlooked RB may be a steal in the middle rounds.

Ezekiel Elliot and Derrick Henry may be dominating the running back draft coverage these days but that doesn’t mean they are the only options. The 2016 NFL Draft features many different runners with many different appraisals and Paul Perkins is one that could turn some heads at the next level.

Good RBs can be found at every level of the draft this year and playmakers will surely be found in rounds outside of the 2016 NFL Draft’s top two rounds. Today we’ll look at a RB who is flying under the radar to many, and has a mid-round appraisal that could be a steal if he’s drafted by a team like the Dallas Cowboys.

UCLA’s Paul Perkins is ball carrier many are overlooking. Perhaps it’s his size (or lack thereof) or perhaps it’s his top-end speed (or lack thereof) that cause many to undervalue Bruins’ top rusher. But whatever the reason, Perkins is a man who is set to destroy draft day doubters.

Paul Perkins primarily gets knocked because of his size. But at 5’10 208lbs, much of the concern over his size is unwarranted. Perkins isn’t large by any means but he’s certainly not diminutive either. This isn’t Lance Dunbar but a well-built runner with a knack for avoiding the big hit.

It’s that knack for avoiding the big hit that makes his running style so relatable to Emmitt Smith. Let’s be clear, Paul Perkins is no Emmitt Smith, but his shiftiness, balance, and ability to fall forward without suffering a direct hit has an uncanny resemblance.

Again, Paul Perkins is not going to be Emmitt Smith. Nothing close to him. But his running style is similar and that running style continues to be one of the most unrated in the NFL Draft year after year.

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You see, Paul Perkins doesn’t have the blazing speed that you hope for when drafting a smaller back. His 4.52 40-time isn’t screaming “home run threat” to anyone. 4.52 isn’t bad but when matched with his modest size, it’s hard for a player like this to create a ton of pre-draft buzz.

He doesn’t have the potential that seems to intoxicate so many people this time of year.

But it’s important to keep in mind, he doesn’t have the bust potential that many of those other players have either.

Paul Perkins’ size and speed may not seem like much to get excited about. But when matched with his incredible quickness and his ability to move suddenly in small spaces, Paul Perkins becomes a very special, very complete, mid-round RB.

Like most former UCLA RBs, Perkins is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Watching his film you’ll see him run traditional check-down routes as well as downfield routes. The Bruins rarely kept him in to pass-protect and multiple draft scouts have cited that as a weakness. But it’s important to keep in mind the Dallas Cowboys rarely use their RBs in pass protection as well.

The Cowboys only typically ask their RBs to pass-protect 25% of the time on passing downs. Jason Garrett prefers to use his RBs as receivers rather than protectors. Many times, he’ll ask them to do both on the same play – laying a quick block and then peeling off and becoming a target. This is something Perkins does quite well.

Something Bob Strum brought up, that’s particularly noteworthy, is Paul Perkins’ ball security. In his 700 UCLA touches, Perkins only fumbled the ball five times. It doesn’t matter how good you can run, if you can’t hold onto the ball, you’re value is extremely questionable. That’s something I brought up regarding DeMarco Murry’s 2015 season more than once.

Paul Perkins is currently rated in the 3rd to 4th round range of the 2016 NFL Draft. Flashy players with top-end size and/or speed usually pick up momentum and value closer to draft day while a player like Perkins tends to slide.

Next: The Case Against Grooming a QB

Paul Perkins is a player the Cowboys could target with their 4th round pick, and if they can secure Perkins, they stand a good chance at finding an absolute steal in the 2016 NFL Draft.