2015 NFL Draft Prospect to Watch: Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami

Denzel Perryman has the upside to become an NFL starting linebacker, but he has to prove himself as a three-down prospect in his senior year. (Photo: Robert Mayer — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino

Denzel Perryman, who has been at least a part-time starter in all three of his seasons on the Miami defense, took over a full-time role as the Hurricanes middle linebacker in 2013. Perryman relished that opportunity and ended up being the team’s defensive MVP and a first-team all-ACC selection. In his standout junior season, Perryman racked up 108 tackles and five tackles for loss. Across 34 career games with 24 total starts, Perryman has tallied 241 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception.

Why You Should Watch Perryman in 2014

Perryman has excellent instincts on run defense and functions perfectly within the Miami defense. He plays smart, disciplined, assignment football and is always in position to make plays against the run. What makes Perryman such an intriguing prospect is how well he combines his football intelligence with his aggressive and physical style of play. Perryman can read and react to plays quickly and is a consistent finisher. He flows well to the football, sees windows and closes them in a hurry.

Making plays between the tackles where Perryman is able to flow to the football is an area of strength, but the Miami linebacker is equally adept making plays when the ball is run right at him. He physically attacks the line of scrimmage and is able to get downhill, beat blockers and make stops for minimal to no gain.

Perryman has a “true nose” for the football and takes smart routes to the ball while he makes his share of impact plays against the run. He is an excellent, secure wrap-up tackler who rarely misses the opportunity to bring down a ball carrier.

What Perryman Needs to Prove in 2014

While Perryman excels between the tackles, the same cannot be said for his playmaking ability in the boundary. He does not have terrific range and athletic ability to chase and pursue plays on the outside.

It’s tough to envision Perryman contributing on third down in the NFL. He has limited coverage ability and instincts. He often appears confused in zone coverage, lacks fluidity in his drops and cannot match up athletically in man coverage situations. The following GIF exposes Perryman’s flat-footed backpedal, and his inability to flip his hips and run, on a play where he allowed an easy touchdown against Virginia.

Perryman does not have the pass-rushing skills needed to make up for his inability to drop into pass coverage. He doesn’t convert speed to power well and his pass-rush moves lack creativity. Those limitations will keep him from making much of an impact as a blitzer or pass rusher.

Listed at 6’0″ and 242 by Miami’s official athletics website, Perryman lacks the ideal height that NFL teams desire for linebackers. As a player with two-down thumper traits, adding 10 to 15 pounds would make him more of a prototype for his skillset.

Projecting Perryman’s Draft Stock

For Perryman to solidify his draft stock, he needs to become a more complete prospect who can contribute on every down. If he become versatile enough to drop into pass coverage and rush the passer with more success, he will be more of a fit for every team.

Furthermore, Perryman can increase his value by developing athletically and improving his play speed.

While Perryman is raw in some important areas, he has high-level run-stopping ability that should not be overlooked. He has a lot to prove in 2014 during his second season as a full-time starter, but when I envision what I think he could become, I see the potential for him to become an NFL starter and a Day 2 draft selection in 2015.

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Tags: 2015 NFL Draft, ACC, Denzel Perryman, Linebackers, Miami, Prospects to Watch

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