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Cowboys 2016 Draft Prospect Profile: UCLA Running Back Paul Perkins

The Cowboys are hosting their 30 national visits this week, lets take a deep dive into one of the prospects.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

This series will examine all draft prospects that have official invites to Valley Ranch. Previous research has shown these players are the most likely to be drafted by the Cowboys. For more explanation, read the opening paragraphs here.

Name: Paul Perkins
Position: Running Back
School: UCLA
Height: 5’10 3/8"
Weight: 208 LBs


Team Co-Captain

Second Team All-Pac-12 (AP & Coaches)


Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 (Coaches)

Captain Don Brown Award (Team’s Most Improved Player)


Honorable Mention Academic All-Pac-12

Captain Don Brown Award (Team’s Most Improved Player)

High School

Two Sport Varsity Athlete (3 years football, 4 years track)

2011 Track Team MVP

2011 State Runner-Up and school record holder - 300m Hurdle

Athletic Profile

pSparq Score: 114.0 Z-Score: -0.6 NFL Percentile: 27.3

pSparq is an approximation of the "Sparq Score" metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are "3 Sigma Athletes" in the NFL, JJ Watt, Byron Jones, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out

Measurables vs others at his position:

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results.  The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position.  A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Games Studied: Arizona, Cal, Stanford, Nebraska, USC

Run Game:

Perkins is a fun back to watch run the ball primarily because of his ability to make tacklers miss both in space and in tight areas. He runs in a scheme that asked him to execute both gap and zone runs, primarily from gun and pistol alignments. Perkins is not the biggest or strongest back, but his wiggle and acceleration allow him to consistently create, and run through arm tackles. He has a reputation as a runner who lacks physicality or power, and while he doesn’t always drive the pile forward he isn’t the type of guy who shies away from contact, or gets knocked back by tacklers. He has a very advanced understanding of the press and cut principles which combined with quality vision make him a very dangerous zone runner. There’s a way about Perkins when he runs that even as a bit of a smaller back, keeps him from taking big hits, and allows him make tacklers miss their target, leaving many of them looking bad and grasping for air, while rendering others to being arm tacklers, which he is more than capable of breaking, both high and low. He has success in the red zone, and near the goal line finishing for points due to this subtle ability to prevent opponents from squaring him up. Perkins uses a variety of jump cuts, and stop cuts to disappear when tacklers step into the hole or approach him in space, and has the ability to start his feet back up and get up to speed quickly.

Passing Game:

The extent of Perkins’ usage as a receiver in the pass game was a selection of flat routes, and wheel routes out of the back field. In the opportunities in the games I studied he caught the ball cleanly with his hands (UCLA’s all-time RB reception leader with 80 career catches), and was able to translate his running skills to carrying the ball after the catch. The most glaring weakness in Perkins’ game is as a pass protector. He was often asked to "check-release" in protection, or chip a rusher on his way into routes, and he regularly diagnosed the appropriate person to target and was willing to step into the lane to slow his man down. However, he will need a significant amount of work to improve and achieve proper technique, at this point he has the habit of dropping his head and lunging at a blitzer leading with his shoulders, meaning he regularly whiffs fully or gets knocked back because his head isn't up and he's not square in his base.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

Paul Perkins’ vision, lateral agility and understanding of press and cut principles make him a perfect fit in the zone run scheme that the Cowboys coaches would like to employ. It would likely take a bit for Perkins to take over the lead back role in the Dallas backfield, due to a significant learning curve in terms of picking up pressure, but he would be so dynamic as a ball-carrier early in the year that his team may be forced to move him up the depth chart to get the ball in his hands. Knowing how high the Cowboys were on Duke Johnson in 2015, (high 2nd round grade, 3rd highest rated running back), I wonder if they’ll feel similarly about a comparable player in Perkins in 2016.

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