The Green Bay Packers struck gold when they selected a Southern Cal linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round three years ago. GM Ted Thompson is hoping for a bit of déjà vu with Nick Perry, another extremely athletic ex-Trojan who was picked 28th overall in Thursday’s draft. Perry will be expected to start opposite Matthews in 2012 and provide the second edge rusher that Dom Capers’ defense so desperately lacked last season. The Detroit native led the Pac-12 conference with 9.5 sacks a year ago.
Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw was a more productive player in college, but I can understand why Thompson preferred Perry. He has more potential as a pass rusher. While Upshaw is tougher against the run and more experienced with his hand off the ground, Perry is far more athletic. In fact, he’s about as athletic as any 270-pound front seven player I’ve seen in the past few years. His first step is lightning quick and he flashes the hustle, quick hands and closing speed to cause problems for even the best offensive tackles. Just ask Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, who’s expected to be drafted early in round two. Perry dominated him in a triple overtime game last October.
So why was a player this talented still available at the end of the first round? Because Perry ran hot and cold in college. He would look like a top-10 pick one week and a fifth-rounder the next. That type of inconsistency scares the heck out of general managers, but Thompson obviously isn’t overly concerned. He probably figures that playing alongside veteran leaders Matthews, Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson and playing for gung-ho assistant coach Kevin Green will be all the motivation Perry needs to fulfill his enormous potential. We’ll soon find out if he’s right.