Defense wins championships, as we have all been told and witnessed. In the 2017 NFL draft, we are starting to see an increase in draft value for defensive players as opposed to offensive players. Such is the case for Michigan safety/linebacker/cornerback Jabrill Peppers. Who is Jabrill Peppers and what makes him special? Peppers, is a 21 year old born in East Orange, New Jersey. During his collegiate career at the University of Michigan, Peppers won several awards including Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the Paul Hornung Award (Most Versitile NCAA player), and the Lott Trophy (Defensive Impact player of the year). Throughout his career, fans and draft analysts have become enamored with Peppers ability to line up in several positions and succeed. Listed at 6' 1" and 205 lbs, Peppers seems like the next big thing, but it may not be the case.
Versatility has become a staple in what GMs look for in draft prospects, when you look at what Todd Bowles was able to accomplish in Arizona during his time as defensive coordinator, you can see why. You look at players like Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon, Mathieu has the ability to line up essentially anywhere on the defense and succeed, Bucannon was drafted as a safety but has made a name for himself as a linebacker. Those two players alone are staples in Arizona's defense, so it makes sense as to why teams are looking for the next best thing. When draft analysts watch Jabrill Peppers, that is exactly what they see. Jim Harbaugh, head coach for the Michigan Wolverines, would line Peppers up anywhere on defense and he would look good. His small stature held up well when he would line up as a linebacker, he was quick enough to play safety or corner, and he was agile enough to play running back.
Jabrill is getting the same pre-draft hype that Myles Jack, linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, got in last years draft. Myles Jack played safety, cornerback, linebacker, and running back during his time at UCLA. However, due to an ACL injury and comments that scared GMs away (Link to PFT), Jack eventually fell to the second round. There are some differences between the two, Jack was more built to play linebacker in the NFL, Peppers has more of the frame teams look for in safeties and cornerbacks.
Peppers worked wonders in run support, that is where he really made a name for himself, he's a tough and physical player who set the tone for Michigan's defense. However, in coverage, that wasn't the case. Of Jabrill's 26 targets this past season, Peppers surrendered 20 catches. Most of his big plays came from him being unblocked, he has not shown ability to engage a blocker and shed. During his three year career at Michigan, Peppers only picked off one pass. Only one. That's it. In comparison, you look at what Budda Baker, safety for the Washington Huskies (my top rated safety in the 2017 NFL Draft), has done during his three year career, he not only had 5 interceptions during his career, but also picked up more tackles than Peppers.
Jabrill Peppers is a good player, I would never take that away from him. However, there are so many concerns in his game to warrant a top 15 pick. So often times we fall in love with athleticism that we surrender football playmaking ability and instincts as if athleticism some how makes up for it. This draft is filled with players who play their position extremely well, however Jabrill Peppers isn't one that a team should consider as high as he is projected.