Chiefs Draft Profile: Oklahoma DT Perrion Winfrey is a freight train

AsKansas City Chiefs prepare for2022 NFL Draftin Las Vegas from 28-30. April, we take a look at some of the players the team could target with their 12 draft picks: Round 1 (29 and 30), Round 2 (50 and 62), Round 3 (94 and 103), Round 4 (121 and 135) and round 7 (233, 243, 251 and 259).


Last year, the Chiefs had the NFL’s fifth-best pressure percentage (hurries plus knockdowns plus sacks – divided by dropbacks) at 26.4%. That’s a pretty good number. That means you made the opposing quarterback feel uncomfortable in over a quarter of the times he fell back to retire.

Unfortunately, the majority of those numbers came from knockdowns and haste – not from actually firing the quarterback. While haste and knockdowns are good, there is a difference between making a quarterback feel insecure and getting him to eat grass.

In fact, the Chiefs were ranked 29th in sacks last year, which was good enough to place them ahead of the Detroit Lions and behind the Houston Texans. To put it bluntly: If the lions and the Texans are the company you keep, then it will not be done well enough, whatever it is you do.

If the last two Super-Bowls have taught us anything, then it is that championship teams can rush the quarterback from the inside as well as from the edge. As AFC West is now home to some of the league’s leading passing attacks, it’s a necessity to generate passing rush from all four downlinemen.

That’s why we’re now taking a look at Oklahoma’s defensive tackle, which was named MVP for Reese’s Senior Bowl: Perrion Winfrey.

Background

Physically, Winfrey looks like he has been grown in a laboratory. Standing 6 feet 4 and weighing 292 pounds, he has some of the longest arms in the draft at 35 1/4 inches. At the NFL Combine, his hands measured 10 1/4 inches. And Winfrey is young: he is still only 21 years old.

He took the hard road to Oklahoma. According to 247Sports, he was a three-star recruit and was the nation’s 128th ranked defensive tackle in 2018 while coming out of Lake Park High School in Roselle, Illinois. Despite being offered scholarships at Virginia Tech, Wyoming and Illinois, Winfrey chose to go the JUCO route and played two seasons at Iowa Western Community College.

The move paid off. In 2020, Winfrey was considered the country’s No. 1 JUCO prospect. This time, he was offered scholarships to Alabama, Penn State, Texas and Miami – but he ultimately chose to play with the Sooners.

In 2021, Winfrey counted 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for losses. He was named a second-team All-Big 12 Conference committee in both of his Oklahoma seasons.

Winfrey proved great in rivalry games. In his two matchups against Texas, he counted 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss – along with a blocked field goal attempt during triple overtime – to help seal a Sooners victory.

At the Senior Bowl this year, he noted two sacks and three tackles for losses. On the combine, he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds.

College film evaluation

Winfrey is a composer who has experience in setting up over the center or as a 3-technique. With hands like ash blocks, he is nimble enough to glide between offensive linemen to get into the backfield. Winfrey is also in possession of an elite bull rush. Whenever he wants, he can put conflicting linemen on skates to collapse his pocket.

In this game, Oklahoma’s defensive front initially shifts to the left before being snapped, before sloping back just after the quarterback has taken the ball. Then there is a miscommunication: the center tries to send Winfrey off to the left guard, who is busy assisting the left tackle with the double-team edge rusher coming around the corner. Winfrey is able to slip between the linemen and force the quarterback to throw the ball away.

On this rep, the guard initially has the advantage – but Winfrey does a good job of keeping his hands active and prevents the guard from locking him inside. He continues to fight, getting his hands off the guard’s shoulder pads, chopping crossbody and working side-by-side. With his hands up, he pushes the lineman back into his own quarterback.

This game is a great example of Winfrey’s engine and raw power. On the tape, we see a lot of plays where his first move fails. But he keeps fighting until the end of the play – and is rewarded for doing so.

Here’s another example that shows that with Winfrey, effort is never an issue. To begin with the double team, he reads the race, uses his functional strength to free himself from the blockages and strikes them to the edge – where he swallows the runner to a loss.

With a player of this size, you just do not see this type of pure strength and athletics quite often.

However, Winfrey is not a perfect player. His most conspicuously weak point is that he is not very fast out of the snap. In the movie I saw, there were several plays where he was the last to come out of his position. His slow reaction time can take him out of the game so the opposite lineman can become comfortable.

In college, Winfrey faced a lot of double teams (and sometimes triple teams), but his Oklahoma coaches did not miss him very often. So there were times when he looked confused at the end of a fight. But should the chiefs choose him, this should not be a problem; Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo tends to keep his linemen fresh by rotating them.

Winfrey must also work on his secondary traits. He has a strong blow – and his hands remain active – but it does not always seem that he knows what to do with them.

On this fourth quarter rep, the Sooners were already up. But Winfrey is still digging deep, freeing herself from the blockade and cutting back behind her own husband (essentially an interim stunt) to stop.

Here is a game where the right guard is trapped in no man’s land, where he gives Winfrey a free release from the snap. The running back is fast enough to get to the outside and pick up a nice win. Undaunted, Winfrey chases the ball carrier and forces the fumble.

Once again, Winfrey struggles through a double team and pursues the quarterback as he is forced to leave his pocket. Winfrey chases him to the sideline and uses his big hands to strip the ball.

Coaches say you want guys who love to play. It’s not easy being a defensive lineman, but Winfrey really looks like he enjoys football – and has fun when he’s on the pitch. And as we see here, Winfrey also loves hitting the quarterback.

How he fits in with the Chiefs

Photo by Michael Wade / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Winfrey is by no means a finished product. But he has all the features and tools you want in a top-class interior rusher. I think if you get him to work with new defensive line coach Joe Cullen, Winfrey is a guy who can make great progress very quickly.

Consider this: In his senior season at Mississippi State, Kansas City star defense tackle Chris Jones received 7.5 sacks in 13 games. That is an average of 0.57 sacks per. match. In Oklahoma, Winfrey averaged 0.50.

If Winfrey is lined up next to Jones, he’s going to see far fewer doubles than he saw while playing in Oklahoma; the two of them can prove to be a dangerous combination on the interior.

The bottom line

At the Senior Bowl, Winfrey undoubtedly had the best week of any player. As the week progressed, you could see improvements in his hand fighting during one-on-one drills. And when he could get into the fight with fresh legs, he dominated.

Winfrey is another low-floor and high-ceilinged player who could pay dividends almost immediately.

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