La'mical Perine and Bilal Powell
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

La’Mical Perine has the perfect set of tools to provide Bilal Powell-esque long-term impact for the New York Jets.

Joe Douglas‘ selection of Florida running back La’Mical Perine with the 120th overall pick in the fourth round has had some Jets fans a bit puzzled. Those doubts have not been regarding why the team would take a running back that highly, but rather, why they would take one who is widely considered to be a low-ceiling prospect. Perine does not seem to offer tantalizing traits such as top-end speed, elusiveness, and route-running ability that other backs on the board at No. 120 may have brought to the table.

Those criticisms will likely turn out to be true regarding Perine. He certainly is not the high-upside home run hitter that fans were hoping to see the Jets snag on Day 3.

With that being said, Perine does offer something that most fourth-round players do not – a well-rounded and NFL-ready skill-set. His balanced toolbox presents him as having a higher likelihood of succeeding than the average fourth-round running back.

All of these pluses and minuses are highly reminiscent of the last running back taken by the Jets in the fourth round – Bilal Powell.

Powell was never quite able to become the Jets’ lead back (mostly due to inconsistent durability), but for the majority of his nine-year tenure with the Jets, he was a reliable presence in the backfield, steadily amassing plus-value over the years in his change-of-pace role.

Perine has the tools to put together a very similar type of career.

Soft hands

One simple way that a running back can add value is by minimizing drops. Every reception offers the possibility of something positive happening for the offense. Thus, each and every drop – even ones on throws that would seemingly not result in much yardage – leaves potential positive value on the field. There is no telling what can become of any given reception. One broken tackle can lead to a big gain or a touchdown. Even if the receiver is about to be destroyed in the backfield, the defender may commit an unsportsmanlike penalty in the process of making the tackle to create a positive result for the offense. The possibility of that happening is eliminated if the pass is dropped.

Long story short, dropping passes is bad (I’m sure you knew that). Over an extended volume of receptions, players can save quite a few plays by keeping their drop rates lower than average.

Early in his career, Powell struggled with drops. From 2011-14, Powell dropped nine passes and made 65 receptions, recording a poor drop rate of 12.2% (2019 running back average: 6.7%). He improved in the latter portion of his career. From 2015-18, Powell caught 139 passes and dropped only eight, registering a solid drop rate of 5.4% (although he had two drops against seven receptions in 2019).

Perine’s body of work at Florida suggests that he could become a reliable target in the NFL. He dropped only two passes in his career while pulling in 72 receptions, posting a tremendous drop rate of 2.7%.

Ball security

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