Whether you're getting them at No. 2 overall or as an undrafted free agent -- I'm not here to talk about running back draft value analytics, so calm down -- productive running backs can be found in all shapes and sizes. The reason they can be found in many different forms in many different rounds is because success when running the ball has a lot to do with chemistry and other players around just the ball carrier themselves more than perhaps just a back's individual ability.
But you always want to make sure you scout traits in situations for running backs when projecting them to the NFL; watching them win with speed or power or lateral quickness at least raises their percentage of potential success, even if the final say in success has to do with things like coaching, offensive scheme and of course the offensive line.
It's sort of a pick-your-prospect kind of running back class here in 2019, and because of that we're seeing draft analysts each have guys that they like where others might not like them at all. But among the known sleepers and studs, there's one back who doesn't seem to be getting talked about at all that really should be.
Junior running back Lamical Perine from the University of Florida.
Perine was just a 3-star back out of Theodore, AL when he committed to the Gators in 2016. As a true freshman, Perine saw action early on behind Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson. Perine ended that season with 421 rushing yards on 91 carries with one score. The next year, with Scarlett out for the season due to suspension, Perine's workload and production increased. He rushed for 562 yards on 136 carries with eight touchdowns. In 2018, his true junior year, Perine had less carries with 128 but had a career-high 750 yards and a 5.9 yards-per carry average with it.
Perine is draft eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft, and though his intentions haven't been set yet, he should be talked about a lot more than he is right now -- which seems to be not at all.
If you don't know anything about Perine, and I could only show you one clip to describe him, this is the one I would choose.
Above all, this 5-foot-11, 210-pound back is determined. He's determined to get every yard he can, whether that's through contact or speed. That's future first round pick Jamal Adams hanging all over Perine, doing everything he could to bring him down but to no avail, at least for about 10 extra yards.
Perine has such a great center of gravity and such good balance within his body that he can use both his upper and lower body strengths to run through contact about as well as I've seen any running back do this season in college football.
Perine will always fight for extra yards, and that trait will always play in the NFL.
But just because Perine will lower the shoulder on you doesn't mean he also won't turn on the jets and try to out run you.
In the clip above, there wasn't much deep help, so when Perine found the hole he was off to the races. However, in situations like that you don't have to just write it off as if no one were next to him. He was gaining separation from even the closest guy to him throughout the entire run, and he was able to keep his long speed up for a very extended period of time (74-yard run). Perine won't be the fastest back in this class, but for the power he brings, his speed is certainly a compliment to that to make him a well-rounded back.
Speaking of a well-rounded game, for players who are not drafted high to be feature backs, most of their early work in the NFL will have to come on situations like third downs. In order to get in on those plays, you have to be able to pass block or you have to be able to pass catch.
Perine doesn't have too many catches, just 28 in his college career, but his 390 total yards and 13.9 yards-per-catch average lend favorably to his overall game and getting on the field early.
As seen in the clip above, Perine can have pretty natural hands. Once he had the pass in his possession, he displayed some good burst to get into the end zone, too.
The area in which I believe Perine has improved the most in 2018 has been with his patience and his vision.
It makes sense that a true freshman back at a Power 5 school is just doing anything they can to get yards using their strength and athletic ability early on, and the same can be said for Perine's situation his sophomore year, too, as the more feature back. But in a player's third year you're hoping to see them take that next step, and Perine certainly did.
Anytime you have a player who possesses good power and speed and they can combine that with patience and good vision of the field, then you're talking about a guy who you can put in the game and trust to do what they need to do. Whether it was runs inside or out, Perine seemed aware of where running lanes might form whether it was on power or zone run concepts, and showed good patience to wait for them to develop. Trusting your offensive line like that will go a long way -- some back don't like trusting.
Perine took that next step in 2018, and that means his ceiling for production has a lot of potential.
When I look at Perine, I see a back who not only has favorable traits but also favorable conditions to produce at the NFL level. He has the speed and power to take on contact and superior athletes at the next level; he can hang with those guys. And the fact that he can catch and he is a decent pass blocker means he gives himself the chance to impress early on in his career and stick on a roster. Plus, being in a committee for three years at Florida means there aren't a lot of miles on his tires.
If you asked me to give you one player that the rest of the scouting world isn't talking enough about, I'd tell you it's Lamical Perine.