There are hundreds of stories being told during the planning and anticipation of the 2017 NFL Draft. Today we will be looking at a scouting report for redshirt sophomore defender/playmaker Jabrill Peppers, Michigan Wolverines.
DEF/ATH-Jabrill Peppers, Michigan 5’11” 213 lbs.
Versatility was the key to his college career and this versatility led to being acknowledged with three major college awards in 2016: the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year and the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year. Peppers played linebacker, safety, corner, running back, option quarterback, wideout, punt and kickoff returner. Those are all wonderful accomplishments, but what does it mean for his ability to compete in the NFL? Because I’m a high school football coach and educator by trade, let’s break down what I saw in the six games I reviewed of the redshirt sophomore defender/playmaker: 2016 contests versus Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Indiana. Most of these game videos are available via draftbreakdown.com. These are my thoughts:
Cons: He is too small to play outside linebacker and rarely won against bigger athletic blockers. When the former Wolverine avoided contact, he could make some plays; however those efforts to remain untouched also could take him out of position to disrupt the offense. Peppers has a lot of confidence in his athletic gifts, but those caused him to write too many checks that his body couldn’t cash. For example, the defender would take bad angles for a chance to break up or intercept a pass but too often this effort did not pay off. Peppers emulated the former Steelers great Troy Polamalu with his penchant for gambling but lacked Polamalu’s understanding of the offense he faced or the bind that his recklessness put on the rest of the defense. As a returner, Peppers runs high and does not sink his hips enough.
Pros: His athleticism is off the charts with loose hips that allow him to change directions quickly, the cat-like balance he demonstrates play after play, and the ability to click and close from ten yards away when in zone. Peppers was also quite effective in the slot shadowing tight ends and slot receivers step for step. He finds the ball quickly and chases down the ball carrier through the line of scrimmage. At times the safety rushes the passer from the edge, which creates a lot of pressure. The former Wolverine is a good open field tackler, but can get lazy at times and by launching himself towards the ball carrier. Peppers is a dangerous returner who turns on the jets in the open field and can use a combination of jump cuts, spins, and getting to the cutback lane to take the pigskin to the house. His combine testing proved he is explosive enough with a 4.46 40 yard dash, 35.5″ vertical and 128″ broad jumps.
Overall impressions: The Michigan coaching staff struggled with where to use him at times, but whichever NFL team drafts him needs to have a plan to use him. I think Peppers would be best used like Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett, sometimes covering the slot and heavily used in run support. He is an explosive returner who also adds value in leagues that use return yardage in their scoring. It might be my Michigan bias (born in Ann Arbor) , but I have him as my second ranked safety after Jamal Adams over more of a free safety Malik Hooker.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to discuss my scouting reports with you throughout the next several weeks, so keep checking the site for more content. Please check out my other content as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.