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Jabrill Peppers, Offensive Weapon

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NFL

Jabrill Peppers Overview

Michigan safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers is one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2017 NFL draft.  Due to his dynamic athleticism, Peppers contributed to Michigan on offense, defense, and special teams.

Not having a defined role can be detrimental to NFL draft prospects.  While it seems like versatility is a good thing, being a jack-of-all-trades but master of none causes issues when scouts evaluate a player.  It is very difficult to evaluate traits when the player does not have a defined position.

So what position is Peppers going to play? Is he a linebacker? A safety? Something else?  After watching tape on him, I have decided Peppers will be most successful as an offensive weapon.  While is seems like Peppers’ best position might be safety, I’d like to discuss the way in which he affected games at Michigan.

Defense

Safety

Jabrill Peppers was primarily a defensive player at Michigan.  While he started out as a safety, he was forced to play linebacker last year.  As a result, many NFL evaluators had to evaluate him as a linebacker and not necessarily as a safety.

Because of Peppers’ athleticism, he was able to make the transition from safety to linebacker.  When watching tape, however, Peppers doesn’t really excel at either position.

There has been a lot of talk about Peppers’ lack of production on the ball.  Typically, safeties with as much hype as Peppers had at the beginning of the season are very productive when the ball is in the air. Peppers had one interception in his college career.  While it seems like that  lone interception might change perception about his lack of ball production, he really didn’t create the opportunity. He lucked into it.

Peppers’ interception against Ohio State only happened because Ohio State wide receiver Curtis Samuel hit the ball into the air.  Peppers happened to be in the right place at the right time.

His instincts in coverage are lacking.  Peppers doesn’t have the instincts to constantly put himself around the ball.  That is really what sets good safeties apart from bad ones; the good ones are always around the football.

Linebacker

In today’s NFL, smaller, faster linebackers have become more popular than they were before.  Because of spread offenses, players need to have more range than they did in the old NFL.  Peppers, however, is not a linebacker. It is that simple.

Peppers does not like blockers. He lacks the physicality to take on blocks and takes himself out of plays consistently when avoiding blocks.  While it might be easy to say “use him like the Arizona Cardinals use Deone Buchannon,” it does not work that way. Buchannon was a very physical strong safety in college so the transition to linebacker was more natural.

Peppers is going to get overdrafted because of his athletic ability.  If he is drafted by a team that solely wants to use him on defense, he will be a bust.

Offense/Special Teams

This is where I believe Peppers will be most successful in the NFL.  Simply put, he is electric with the ball in his hands.

Peppers has elite vision and his ability to make people miss is special.  If he played running back exclusively, Peppers would have been one of the best runners in the class.

His athleticism allows him to exploit small creases for big gains and makes him dangerous as a weapon in the backfield.  While he does not have the technical aspects of playing running back down, his natural ability would make him a worthwhile developmental prospect.

Peppers is also fantastic as a return man on special teams.  He shows his excellent vision when the ball is in his hands and his stop-start ability is unmatched in this draft class.

Conclusion

In sum, I think we’re going to have to start considering Peppers an offensive/special teams weapon.  I know that he primarily played defense in college, but his most successful position in the NFL is going to be returner and running back.

He has better instincts with the ball in his hands than he does when playing defense.  The team that drafts Peppers will have to be open to trying him out at multiple positions.  When they do, they’ll discover that Jabrill Peppers the running back is a better football player than Jabrill Peppers the safety/linebacker.

 

 

 

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