Allen Park — It wasn't that long ago that Paul Perkins was tearing up the Pac-12. In his final two seasons at UCLA, he racked up more than 3,300 yards rushing and receiving while scoring 26 touchdowns.
Declaring early for the 2016 draft, an anonymous general manager compared Perkins to dynamic Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, then one of the best dual-threat rushers in the NFL.
"The tape tells you everything on him," the general manager told NFL.com "He's not big, he's not fast, he has great feet and he competes. The combine workout won't tell you anything new. I'm interested to meet the kid and see what he's like."
Perkins ended up being the ninth running back selected, falling to the fifth round before the New York Giants snatched him with the No. 149 pick, one spot ahead of former Chicago Bears and current Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard.
Perkins' rookie season went decently enough. Playing second fiddle to Rashad Jennings, Perkins carried the ball 112 times for 456 yards and caught 15 passes for another 162 yards.
But he has failed to build on that debut season. During his sophomore year, he averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per carry. Perkins then missed his third year with a pectoral injury. He hasn't had more than three carries in a game since Week 4 of the 2017 season.
Now, he'll look to get back on track in Detroit after he was claimed off waivers by the Lions this week.
"Whatever the coaches need me to do, that's what I'm going to do," Perkins said. "I'm going to go out there and be an explosive player out of the backfield and make plays for the Lions."
Like any player waived by one team and claimed by another, it's been a hectic week for the running back, but he was fortunate to land in a locker room with several familiar faces. The Lions have added several former Giants in the past year, including linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive end Romeo Okwara and defensive tackle Damon Harrison.
That trio has had plenty of success in Detroit, and Perkins is hoping to be the next in line. Prior to being waived, he saw some action in the preseason, knocking off the rust with 24 carries and nine receptions for 164 combined yards.
"Looking through the preseason, he runs hard, he runs very explosive downhill, but he has a skill set that can do a couple different things," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "He has enough speed to kind of get the edge if he needs to, he can get down inside if he needs to. He’s tough, he’ll pass (protect), he’ll kind of put his body in there, and he’s not afraid of contact from that standpoint. Just thought it was good opportunity to help us, and really not only on offense, but also special teams.He has some value there, too, which is important for us in our overall makeup of our team.”
Special teams is a key factor here. C.J. Anderson, who was released to make room for Perkins, offered little on the units, while Perkins has extensive experience working on both coverage and return units.
Perkins joins a depth chart led by Kerryon Johnson, with speedy rookie Ty Johnson and dual-threat J.D. McKissic serving at the primary complements.