Jabrill Peppers Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Good instincts versus the run
Capable of playing nickel corner
Can cover receiving tight ends in man coverage
Could be a dime linebacker
Fast firing to flat or coming downhill
Can be a strong safety, eighth man in the box
Tough run defender
Size to tackle NFL running backs
Dangerous return skills
Special teams coverage potential
Has added weight since end of season to tackle NFL backs
Huge athletic upside
Not a true free safety
Not natural in pass coverage
Has issues in pass coverage
Could struggle against receivers in man
Lacks ball skills; just one interception in college
Hasn't seen certain route combinations yet
Has some rawness as a defensive back
Summary: The NFL Draft always has some freaky athletes who are a bit of a mystery regarding their position in NFL. Shaq Thompson is a recent player who created that debate, and Peppers has been discussed at linebacker, running back, and safety for the NFL. Peppers and teams are projecting him to safety after his highly hyped career at Michigan.
Peppers mainly played strong safety or Will linebacker for Michigan in 2015, totaling 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up. On offense, he was a gadget player with 18 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. Peppers also had eight receptions for 79 yards. He averaged 11.4 yards per punt return as well.
In 2016, Peppers continued to play all three phases. He totaled 72 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks, one forced fumble and his only career inteception - via a deflected pass. Peppers was phenomenal on punt returns. He contributed on offense with 17 carries for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
For the NFL, Peppers could fit as hybrid safety/linebacker like Deone Buccannon. He also could be used similar to how New Orleans utilizes Kenny Vaccaro.
For pass coverage, Peppers is a work in progress. He lacks ball skills and is not natural in coverage to be considered a true cornerback or a safety who can man up on NFL wide receivers. Peppers also doesn't fit as the single-high deep free safety who is a rangy center fielder. His ball skills and instincts in the passing game aren't there for him to play that role. He could develop into covering slot receivers or receiving tight ends. Peppers will need to correct some technique problems and not getting caught flat-footed. He has the speed and athleticism to cover, but needs development. A lot of scouts think Peppers could walk down to cover the slot or tight ends as more of a strong safety.
In speaking with one playoff general manager whose team could consider a safety, he has this to say about Peppers as a free safety, "Not sure if his ball skills are good enough. He has the physicality, but the game looks different back there. However, there is a chance he could make it there."
In run defense, Peppers has some instincts and is quick to diagnosis rushing plays. He is also a physical tackler and doesn't hesitate to run into the scrum to make a tackle. Peppers is fast to fire to the flat or into the backfield to blow up rushing plays, too. He comes downhill in a hurry and is very fast at reading his keys.
Here is how one top scout from a defensive back-needy team that likes Peppers summarized him, "I think he'll be fine as a strong safety. He has speed, athletic ability, and explosive athleticism. His scheme and how [Michigan] used him didn't let him show his ball skills and pass-coverage instincts. It's made him an enigma, but he clearly doesn't lack for the ability, having seen him on tape and in person now. Peppers is a gamble any way you look at it though, I'd hedge my bets on him being a better, more statistically-productive pro than collegian if the background stuff checked out stable. I see him being a more explosive Calvin Pryor. I don't see the size to hold up as a nickel Sam like Buccannon. But, I think Peppers will be plenty capable of covering tight ends and slot receivers; just needs some experience guarding routes, but he shows he can do it here and there. He can grow into a smaller Kenny Vaccaro."
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Peppers could go as high as the middle of the first round or end up being a second-round pick.
Player Comparison: Kenny Vaccaro. As the scouts have suggested, Peppers could end up being a player like Vaccaro in the NFL. Vaccaro is a little taller and longer than Peppers. In the NFL, Vaccaro is more versatile in coverage than your typical strong safety, and Peppers could be similar.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Houston, Seattle, Buffalo, Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh
There are a lot of potential fits for Peppers late in the first round and early in the second round. The Bears, Chargers, Panthers, Bengals and Bills all have top-10 picks and could use a safety. Peppers won't go that high, but at least three of those teams could be targeting a safety in Round 2 assuming that Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker go in the top 10. Connecticut's Obi Melifonwu could also go in the middle to late portion of the first round.
Chicago signed Quintin Demps but could use a safety to pair with him. Peppers could interest the Bears in Round 2 if they don't take a safety at No. 3. The Chargers need a true replacement for Eric Weddle, and if they don't take a safety in the first round, Peppers would be a good fit in Round 2. Carolina needs a safety upgrade, while the Bengals really missed not having Reggie Nelson last year. Buffalo has a need at safety as Aaron Williams has an uncertain future due to a neck injury. The Bills have shown interest in Peppers, and he could be in play for their second-round pick.
Tampa Bay needs an upgrade at safety, and Peppers would make sense for the organization's second-round pick. Cleveland needs improved safety play, and Peppers would make sense for one of the Browns' second-round picks.
Late in the first round, the Texans could give consideration to drafting a safety after losing Quintin Demps. However, the quarterback need is much greater for Houston. The Steelers could use a safety to pair with Sean Davis, and Peppers could give them a gifted young tandem. There have been rumors that Pittsburgh is interested in Peppers.
One of the Super Bowl participants could consider Peppers late in Round 1. Atlanta could use a free safety to pair with strong safety Keanu Neal, so Peppers could be in play for the team's first-round pick.
Sources say the Seahawks love Melifonwu, so perhaps Peppers could be in play for them. Earl Thomas has made some noise about retirement, so Seattle could start thinking of the future.