It almost seems a yearly ritual where the NFL is preparing for a player to come into the NFL Draft who really doesn’t have a positional home. As players and teams prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft, Jabrill Peppers from the University of Michigan embodies versatility, but also true ‘tweener’ status.
Peppers, who can play linebacker, defensive back and who even carried the football in 2016, is preparing for the NFL, and is telling teams just what they can expect from him if a team selects him.
“I believe I'm a defensive back who can play comfortably in the box. I can play corner, nickel corner, safety -- strong or free. In some situations, I can come down and be the dime linebacker, just from my experience of being in the box this year, learning how to read offensive fronts and actually learning what the big guys up front on the defensive side are doing -- being in the 5-technique, 6-technique, 3, shade, you know, things like that. So now that I've added that to my arsenal, I definitely think [I can play] anywhere in the defensive backfield. I can also play in the box, as well.” Peppers told the NFL Network.
The question then becomes just when will Peppers be drafted? Some aren’t impressed with his body of work as a defensive back, while others think he is a can’t miss prospect for a team needing a versatile defender.
Mock Drafts have projected Peppers going from early first round, to late first round to a Day 2 selection. One thing which is certain, Peppers certainly improved his draft stock during the NFL Scouting Combine. But has it been enough?
In my opinion, his versatility certainly can be an attribute worth taking a hard look at in the first round. A perfect example would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who draft 30th in the opening round of the draft.
With the departure of Lawrence Timmons, and the need for a solid defensive back, Peppers could be an ideal addition to the defense. Showing the ability to play in the box as a nickel linebacker, and also being able to drop into the defensive backfield and cover receivers and tight ends. The Steelers run their sub packages nearly 75-percent of the time on defense, and Peppers would be a sub package stud for the black and gold.
There are still a lot of question marks surrounding Peppers’ ability to translate his versatility to the NFL, but although many aren’t sold on him as a first round pick, his athleticism is undeniable. With NFL defenses moving more towards a fast and furious style of play, with versatility coming at a premium, Peppers is going to be picked high by someone, but who is the ultimate question.
Check out this complete breakdown by Brett Kollman on Peppers to get a better feel for what he does well, and things he certainly improve upon.