Packers select Nick Perry, USC OLB/DE
By Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~Even with pass rushers falling off the board in a flurry late in the first round of the NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers were able to address that glaring need Thursday night.
With USC’s Nick Perry and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw on the board at No. 28 overall, the Packers went for Perry, who figures to start immediately at right outside linebacker, opposite former USC teammate Clay Matthews on the left side.
The Packers went into this draft badly needing a pass rusher for a defense that finished No. 32 in the NFL in sacks percentage last season, and this draft was relatively light for 3-4 outside linebackers who figured to go later in the first round. When Seattle pulled a shocker by drafting West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin at No. 15 overall — he was maybe the draft’s most explosive speed rusher, but he also is regarded as a one-dimensional player and many teams concerned him a serious off-the-field character risk — it helped push other rushers down the board.
After Irvin, they started going fast: South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram (San Diego, No. 19), Boise State’s Shea McClellin (Chicago, No. 19), Syracuse’s Chandler Jones (New England, No. 21), Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower (New England, No. 25) and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus (Houston, No. 26).
That left Perry and Upshaw on the board for the Packers, and the Packers went for the speed-oriented Perry rather than the power-oriented Upshaw. Perry is 6-foot-2¾, 271 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.59 seconds; Upshaw was 6-1 5/8, 272 (almost 280 at his campus workout) and ran the 40 in a reported 4.81 seconds. Many scouts questioned whether Upshaw was quick and fast enough to handle the coverage responsibilities of a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL even though he played that position and was at times a dominating player in college.
Several scouts interviewed earlier this week thought the Packers were especially interested in McClellin, but if they were, he never got within striking distance and was selected by the Packers’ NFC North Division rival Chicago Bears at No. 19.
Perry, who is entering the draft after his redshirt junior season, was a two-year starter at USC and played on passing downs the year before. He finished his career with 21½ sacks and especially impressed scouts with his average of 1.53 seconds on the 10-yard split on his two 40-yard dashes at the NFL scouting combine. That’s an exceptionally quick time and is better than Irvin’s 1.60 seconds.
However, some teams wondered whether Perry has the lateral quickness to cover well as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Early in his career he played the same stand-up “elephant” linebacker-defensive end hybrid position that Matthews played as a senior at USC. But when Lane Kiffin became USC’s coach, Perry became a 4-3 defensive end and didn’t play much in coverage.
Perry’s 4.66 seconds in the short shuttle and 7.25 seconds in the three-cone drill were among the worst of the first-round outside pass rushers in this draft.
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