In the 2003 NFL draft the Pittsburgh Steelers moved up in the 1st round (something they rarely do) in order to select a disruptive, HOF Safety by the name of Troy Polamalu. But, in order to procure the services of Mr. Black and Goldilocks (YES, managed to get a hair joke in there!) the Steelers held the 27th pick and decided to trade up to No. 16 by sending Kansas City their 1st, 3rd, and 6th round picks.
So I ask you, brethren of the BTSC, what would it take for you to trade up this year for a player who is Troy-esque ?
Is there a Troy-like player worth reaching for and if so, what would you offer up as collateral?
Right now, assuming he's still hanging around after the Ravens and Bungholios draft their future inmates, I'd have my eye on Jabrill Peppers, who is the subject of today's pseudo-scouting report.
Surely there's a lot to like about Peppers when you first watch him play, and at the same time I found a lot of polarizing opinions concerning his ability to play safety.
If you want dirt on the guy the comments section of this article gets intense and is worth a look.
Let's start with the bad (or what appears to be the bad) on Peppers.
THE BAD: LACK OF INT'S AND DEEP COVERAGE ABILITY
The current knock on Peppers is that his production, specifically interceptions, was low for college, however I'm going to shoot this one down right away as a concern. If you look at the majority of Pepper's plays, specifically where he lines up, you will see that both his style of play and assignments are not exactly conducive to snagging footballs from the sky.
Here's a prime example of what Peppers can bring to the table, personifies him as a player, and at the same time properly points out why Peppers never really racked up a lot of INT's in college.
Peppers is a disruptor of plays. One who was asked to do many things (blitz from the edge, up the middle, stay home in run support, and cover short, middle, and deep) but more than anything, he works the majority of his time near the line of scrimmage.
Now, technically we have to make players fit into neat little boxes so Peppers has and will be typecast as a safety, but I'd like to stress that's only for lack of a better term.
One can easily see the Sean Davis comparisons in terms of responsibilities and where Peppers might be used as a Steeler, yet both players differ in terms of their particular talent(s). Davis is a better pure safety IMO and cover man, while I believe Peppers has better closing speed, plus he diagnoses and disrupts plays at or near the LOS much like Troy did. Not to say I wasn't happy with Davis' play at or near the LOS, but Peppers just seems to get into the backfield more.
Peppers only had 1 this past season, which brings his total INT's during his college career to (drum roll please) ....1.
No Bueno right? Especially for a guy who was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Well, that depends on how you expect a team to utilize his talents.
Just remember, stats don't tell the whole story, just as they didn't accurately represent Troy's resume and what the Steeler's thought he could (and did) bring to the table as a Steeler. Troy's college resume was similar to Peppers, in that he had only 1 INT his senior year and 6 interceptions in 3 years as a starter at USC. Not exactly a ball-hawking, sticky fingered Safety who was known for plucking pigskins out of the air.
In 2002, while appearing in 12 games, Troy had 68 tackles, including 9 for losses, 3 sacks, 1 interception, 6 deflections and 3 forced fumbles.
Based only on stats (which can be misleading) it could be said that the Steelers weren't looking for a cover Safety, but rather an X-factor type player, hard to qualify but easy to identify.
Here's a great article from 2006 (yes, it's old) that describes Troy as:
"the defense's man for all seasons, a blitzer of uncommon speed on passing downs, a tackler of staggering strength against the run, and a moving part so itinerant that opposing offenses find themselves playing Where's Troy before they snap the ball. Polamalu is listed on the roster as a strong safety because he has to be given a position. But the versatility and the skill he brings to the Steelers' secondary make him difficult to categorize. He finished the regular season with 100 tackles, 11 passes batted down, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble, according to the Steelers."
Now, this was after a few seasons when Troy had settled into his prime as perhaps the best defensive player in the league. Even when Troy was at his best, it was still hard to qualify him as a player, and the same can be said about Peppers.
But let's give it a shot.
THE GOOD: PEPPERS IS A VERSATILE ATHLETE.
He's a heat-seeking missile on defense, and for that reason can sometimes forget his tackling mechanics, trying to "wow" fans with a big hit instead of sound fundamentals, or miss (and misjudge) an assignment. I'm not sure if its a knock to say, but he's always looking for the big play. This is no way means he's bad a tackling, just he may be less able to rely on his style of tackling at the next level. Guys get bigger, so he better wrap up.
On offense Peppers can be plugged in as a RB, wildcat QB, and WR. Is he Slash 2.0, no, it's not his forte but he's ok, and could probably contribute here and there with a trick play.
Perhaps most impressive of all, he's a game changer on special teams and has had many great kick and punt returns (not always for TD's, but often for impressive gains). This is a player who could (finally) replace AB and fill a hole that hasn't been filled in...I don't know, ever, and give us a solid threat on special teams.
Here's some tape (condensed) from Michigan vs. Iowa.
There's a lot to love and hate in this game. Take a gander at the 0:25 mark. If there's a passing play near the LOS he seems to always sniff it out (and the Steelers could probably use more players like that). However, at the 0:43 mark Peppers gets beat over the top for a TD because he hesitates in his assignment and gets there late. There's a few good offensive plays, but also some lazy, missed coverages in the secondary and worse, almost a lack of interest in pursuit (finishing the play). I don't know what he was thinking at the 2:20-2:30 mark, but then he comes back and makes a great tackle for a loss at the 3:00 mark, so it's a mixed bag, but one with plenty of upside, especially in the return game where his value is bananas.
Seems the only thing Peppers doesn't do (much like Bo) is know how to kick extra points.
Here, Some highlights of Peppers doing his thing. His versatility is evident.
However, with that versatility comes uncertainty @ safety, which leads me to:
THE UGLY: POLISH AND UNCERTAINTY
Some have labeled him a jack of all trades, master of none, or as this scouting report put it:
"A classic elite athlete who is good at most positions but has failed to master any. Not a great running back or safety. Best plays have come in the return game."
"lack of instincts and awareness in coverage. Often appears a half second late to impact pass plays." And "Lacks discipline in maintaining his position over the top, which has led to some big plays for opponents through the air."
Not the type of criticism you want to hear from a potential 1st rounder, is it?
While I'd been quick to sing his phrases and highlight his value as a LOSS, I'm inclined to agree with the assessment above.
Peppers is not a great safety (yet) and when you look at his coverage (especially deep) he seems to struggle a bit. Seems like Peppers played the majority of his snaps near the LOS and the further he got away from it, the worst off he was.
Here, take a look at this Coverage specific scouting video which focuses more on Peppers play in the secondary. The video gives you about seven minutes worth of coverage to make up your own mind.
At the 2:40 and 3:20 mark you'll see my main concern with Peppers. What you might call his lack of awareness when the balls in the air (sound like anyone familiar?).
Now, granted he's in man coverage from the get go and gets no help over the top, so it really isn't fair to call him a safety on these plays, nevertheless it's pretty clear he has trouble locating the football in the air.
One thing I noticed while watching all this video is, if there's a pass play under 5 yards Peppers seems to have great instincts and the ability to read and make a play on the ball, but as a safety, especially when playing deep, his cover skills and awareness start to become a liability.
Now, do I mean to say it's a Law Dog covering Edelman-type liability. No. It's not a mismatch, just part of his game he'll need to work on if he doesn't want to get "Blaked" up and down the field by the likes of A.J Green.
So I guess the question becomes, when you look at the kid, do you believe coaching at the next level can fix some of the deficiencies in his game?
He certainly has the pedigree (then again, so did Sharknado). But, it's exactly this type of uncertainty that makes me think an elite athlete like Peppers could potentially fall from his projected top 10-20 draft position.
That said, if the Steeler's don't want to play Russian roulette they may have to trade up for him at some point. The gamble certainly worked for Troy. Image for a moment if the Ravens would've taken Polamalu in the draft back in 2003 (FYI: they took Suggs that year at No.7 so it worked out for everyone).
As I said in the beginning, back in 2003 the swap cost the Steelers their 1st round pick, plus a 3rd and 6th round pick. Now I know it's early, and we've got a few more months to go, but I feel like Peppers is this year's Karl Joseph (taken 14th by the Raiders IN 2016) and is becoming a fan favorite that some on BTSC would like to see end up in the black and gold.
There are already some on this board who have been advocating for less picks and more quality players for multiple reasons:
1) Fewer roster spots available to make the 53-man roster.
2) Less overall need for depth at a lot of positions.
3) Being in "win now" mode and only needing 1 or 2 impact players to get to (win?) the Super Bowl.
4) Securing some trade bait for next year in order to grab a 1st round QB.
So, do the Steelers take a chance on him @ 30 if he's still hanging around, do they move up and trade away a 3rd and 6th round pick to secure him, or do we address OLB or CB given the deep class and talent available this year?
What about someone like Adoree Jackson?
He draws comparisons to Peppers due to his versatility on offense and in the return game, plus is a pretty good CB, and is more likely to be there when the Steelers pick.
So, what say you sports fans?