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Though only a full-time starter his final year, Nick Perry was a solid contributor to USC in all of the three years he played. As a freshman and sophomore he was used as a pass rush specialist and managed 12 sacks. His junior year he started all 13 games and recorded 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
Perry is an extremely gifted athlete, with elite athleticism for his size. At the combine he measured in at 271 lbs, ran a 4.64 official 40 (with a 4.5 unofficial time), recorded a 38.5 inch vertical reach and 35 bench reps of 225.
Perry’s greatest strength is his speed. He is very quick off the snap, and uses his explosion to gain leverage on lineman. He does a very good job using his hands both to knock down blockers arms, and to set up his pass rush moves. He is one of the best speed pass rushers in this draft class.
Perry’s main weakness is his run defense. He tends to get pushed around by bigger, stronger lineman in the running game. Many project Perry to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, but as a defensive end in college, it remains to be seen whether he has the ability to handle the coverage responsibilities that come with that position.
While the overall performance of the Patriot defense improved during the playoffs, their mediocre performance during the regular season makes the entire unit in need of an upgrade.
While secondary has been under the most scrutiny, the Patriots would be wise to look at a pass rusher if the right player is on the board at pick number 27 or 31. The Pats were middle of the pack in terms of sacks with 40, and one of their main contributors, Mark Anderson, who recorded 10 of those 40, has left for Buffalo. Their other leading pass rusher, Andre Carter, who also had 10 sacks, is coming off a torn quadriceps injury and could be limited in his return.
Much like the recently departed Mark Anderson, Nick Perry is a pass-rush specialist. He has exceptional straight-line speed for someone his size, and has a wide variety of pass rush moves. When he gets off blockers he can make plays in open space. However, Perry struggles in the run game, especially when it comes to disengaging from bigger and stronger linemen.
What Perry brings to the table is a pure pass rusher who could develop into a great overall player. Many have talked about him playing 3-4 outside linebacker as opposed to 4-3 defensive end to which Perry says “I can handle both, but I prefer 4-3.”
Because Perry has only played in a 4-3, he could have problems with the coverage duties of linebacker. However, his willingness to play in the 3-4 shows that he can be a versatile player. And in Bill Belichick’s multifaceted defense, versatility is a very important trait.
No matter where Perry plays he can rush the quarterback well, and this makes him a valuable player in today’s pass happy NFL.