With the 96th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins.
Perkins was a three-year starter for the Sooners, tallying 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in just six games in 2020. His final collegiate season was abbreviated by a six-game suspension for a failed drug test, which might partially explain his slide toward the end of the third round.
NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah had Perkins ranked as the 44th-best prospect in this year’s draft. He was 43rd on Pro Football Focus’s Top 300 and 64th on the consensus big board compiled by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan.
Perkins was suspended for Oklahoma’s 2019 bowl game and the first five games of the 2020 season.
Measuring in at 6-foot-3, 253 pounds at his pro day, Perkins has the versatility to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end, according to pre-draft scouting reports. He registered at least five sacks and at least eight tackles for loss in each of three seasons at Oklahoma, totaling 16.5 and 32, respectively.
In his introductory conference call, Perkins said he spoke with Steve Belichick, New England’s outside linebackers coach, during the pre-draft process.
“Perkins is a powerful edge rusher with active hands and impressive instincts,” Jeremiah wrote. “As an edge rusher, he has a quick first step and he can quickly generate power without much of a runway. He has a wide variety of moves: push/pull, club, up-and-under and speed-to-power. … Perkins doesn’t have elite bend at the top of his rush, but he is a good finisher once he arrives at the quarterback. Against the run, he can stack and hold blocks on the front side, and he does a nice job of squeezing down from the back side.
“Overall, Perkins is a little undersized, but I love his combination of strength, skill and savvy. He should be an impact pass rusher as soon as he steps onto an NFL field.”
Perkins joins a reloaded edge rotation that features free agent additions Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy, re-signed defensive end Deatrich Wise and recent draft picks Chase Winovich (2019), Josh Uche (2020) and Anfernee Jennings (2020). Tashawn Bower and Rashod Berry also return.
New England selected Perkins with the compensatory draft pick it received for losing quarterback Tom Brady last offseason.
The Patriots also bolstered their defensive front seven with their other Day 2 pick, trading up to draft Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore early in the second round (38th overall). They addressed their quarterback need on Day 1 by taking Alabama’s Mac Jones at No. 15.
The Patriots enter the third and final day of the 2021 draft with five additional picks: one fourth-rounder (No. 127), one fifth (No. 177), two sixths (Nos. 188 and 197) and one seventh (No. 242).