I think that the coolest thing about working with SB Nation is the access to a large network of people, covering hundreds of teams across a couple dozen sports. Our network of college blogs here is absolutely fantastic, so our NFL bloggers have gotten in touch with our college bloggers to tap into their expertise on this year's top NFL Draft prospects.
One guy that the Green Bay Packers have been linked with in numerous mock drafts is USC Trojans defensive end Nick Perry, who could be moved to outside linebacker if he's drafted by a team that primarily plays out of 3-4 defensive sets. Perry's a skilled pass rusher with all of the physical tools, and he offers something that you're going to hear a lot about in the next week: scheme-flexibility.
That is this year's draft buzzword. SPOILER ALERT: We're also going to use it when we write about guys like Andre Branch, Fletcher Cox, Devon Still and Shea McClellin. Like a lot of teams in the NFL these days, the Packers are not going to run everything out of a typical 3-4 all of the time. They don't use a standard 4-3 on regular occasions like, say, the New England Patriots do, but they'll still be looking for flexible defensive players.
The Packers' biggest problem on defense last season was their pass rush, and if they select Perry, they'll almost certainly get an instant improvement in that department. After the jump, we'll get into the specifics of what Perry does and does not bring to the table, with the inside info courtesy of USC Trojans blog Conquest Chronicles.
Quick off the line...blows past blockers before they can get their hands up...good instinct at using leverage and staying balanced...has good change of direction skills...moves well to the outside to out maneuver agile pass blockers...excellent run defender...because of his speed and moves can make plays on the ball carrier from yards away...comparisons made to Freeney.
While Perry has decent push his upper body strength needs work...needs to show more hustle, sometimes takes plays off...at time shows fatigue in the 4th qtr. so conditioning will be important...has some issues when handling double teams...dissects the play well but sometimes over runs the play...at times Perry will bite on play action...mobile QB's could be an issue.
40 Yard - 4.64
Bench Press - 35 reps
Vertical Jump - 38.5-inch vertical jump
Broad Jump - 124.0 inces
3-cone Drill - 7.25 seconds
His stats, physical tools and CC's notes tell you just about everything you need to know about his abilities as a 4-3 defensive end. At the end of the day, Perry's best fit is probably as a DE for a 4-3 team that needs a pass rusher who is also competent in run defense. He doesn't have experience dropping into coverage and some fear that he's not going to be as productive standing up as he was with his hand in the dirt, but with his physical tools, he's going to be pushed as a potential 3-4 OLB fit by a lot of analysts.
First, a tape of his 2010 highlights. You will notice that this guy is FAST off the edge. Also, pay attention to the play 37 seconds in. He's the right defensive end and he drops back, then steps up and makes a terrific play on the middle screen. The following play is a good one too; he looks like an outside linebacker.
And here are his 2011 highlights. Again, notice his crazy quickness off the edge and the different ways that he beats left tackles.
Verdict: An okay pick for the Packers, but not the best fit.
Perry is a supremely talented player, but he's probably not going to make the best switch to standing up of all of the 4-3 end/3-4 OLB tweeners in this draft. His physical tools and variety of pass rushing moves are fantastic, though, and if the Packers think that his skills will translate to OLB, I believe them. He will probably struggle in coverage to start his NFL career, and it might be defined by how well he adapts if he is moved to 3-4 OLB. He could end up a lot like Jason Babin, who was a great 4-3 DE in college that was moved to 3-4 OLB, where he was average. He's found new life as a 9-technique for the Eagles.
I think that Perry is best suited to 4-3 defensive end in the pros, not 3-4 outside linebacker, but he has the tools to play either. Having said that, we might know quickly whether or not he's going to be the real deal at 3-4 OLB, if the Packers pick him. If he can't succeed under Kevin Greene on the practice field and opposite Clay Matthews on gameday, then he's probably not going to succeed as a 3-4 OLB anywhere.