Browns, Headlines, NFL Draft

2017 NFL Draft: Browns select do-it-all safety Jabrill Peppers with pick No. 25

After trading down with the Houston Texans at No. 12, the Cleveland Browns selected safety Jabrill Peppers of Michigan at pick No. 25. The Browns are continuing to add to their poor defense, after picking defensive lineman Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick. Peppers is a player who has the versatility and athleticism that Browns defensive coordinator Greg Williams will love to have on his defense. Here is my breakdown of the Michigan star from my safety rankings:

Jabrill Peppers is one of the most interesting safety prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. Peppers played linebacker, safety, cornerback, quarterback, wide receiver and running back during his Michigan career. His versatility is enabled by his athleticism and mindset. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical and 128 inches in the broad jump. He is able to change directions fluidly, which allows him to play in man and zone coverage. He is a tough player with the mindset to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He was asked to play linebacker at Michigan, even though his best position for the NFL is safety. He is a leader of the defense, who can get his teammates to follow him. Even with his shorter height at 5-foot-11 (which is taller than former Browns safety T.J. Ward), the former Wolverine is a physical player who can play at the line of scrimmage and impact the opposing team’s run game. He is a big hitter who can close on a ball carrier with explosion. His versatility also relates to his ability as a returner. He can make huge plays as a returner, changing a game in that way.

Peppers is not without flaws. His size is the first question mark. At 5-foot-11, 213 pounds, he may struggle to cover tight ends and win on jump balls against athletic receivers. His ball skills and playmaking ability are not as great as his reputation states. He only had one interception in his career and he has struggled to finish off plays in coverage. Lastly, he does not have great instincts, which hurts his reaction time to get to a play and his ability to make plays on defense. Peppers is a strong safety who can be a real weapon for a defense, filling multiple roles for a team.

At Michigan last season, Peppers posted 72 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one forced fumble and one interception in 12 games. He is listed at safety, but the former Wolverine has a chance to play linebacker, returner and possibly on offense. I like the pick given the huge need the Browns had in the back end of the secondary. Browns fans will now be rooting hard for a Michigan grad for the first time since selecting Braylon Edwards in 2005.

  • Slippery Cripple

    I like it as long as that diluted urine sample doesn’t end up being a big deal. Unfortunately, Braylon Edwards has left a bad taste in my mouth involving Michigan players…

  • RGB
  • WFNY_DP

    I found this breakdown to be a very good one in terms of how Peppers really made Michigan’s defense go, even though to many his “lack of stats” indicated a very over-hyped player
    https://youtu.be/pW4HK4HXEi0

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  • I hate everything about this: the move out of 12 with Hooker sitting there practically gifted to us, the choice of a player with an undefined role at the pro level, the fact that there’s even a hint of a drug issue…hate all of it.

  • WFNY_DP

    A couple of other things I would add:

    1. I disagree with… well, maybe that’s not the right term. I guess I need to see some evidence–and hear the rationale–of this: “Lastly, he does not have great instincts, which hurts his reaction time to get to a play and his ability to make plays on defense.” I’m not going to take anything away from Joe and his scouting, but I watched literally every game Peppers played at Michigan, and I never got the sense that his instincts were bad. I’d love to see some definition of what is meant by this statement. He wasn’t a guy who covered for bad awareness with pure athleticism. One of the bright spots about him was his football IQ and his willingness–and ability–to ingest and master new skills and wrinkles of the defense each week. He basically learned a new position last year (Don Brown calls it the Viper) from the ground up, and was immediately executing at a pretty high level pretty early in the season.

    Digression aside, I also don’t get the “he’s not a playmaker” aspect of many reviews of him. I know he’s going to be a DB in the NFL, and he doesn’t have great DB numbers. But, he didn’t play DB last year! At all! He played as an edge setter/ruiner of screens and had some pretty amazing tackling and TFL numbers. Whether he can be a ball-in-the-air playmaker is up for debate, sure. That said, he was plenty good at what he was asked to do last season, and made more than his share of plays. More on this in the return game section.

    2. I also disagree a bit with the video I posted above re: his coverage. I know the scout there takes great pains to point out schematic limitations in Peppers’ coverage assignments and coaching, and says his man-to-man is actually good. I don’t know that I believe that, simply because I never really saw it from him in college. I have a memory of him struggling against Penn State in 2015 when covering one-on-one.

    3. The return game doesn’t get enough love when people talk about Peppers. Think of the best Browns punt returner you can think of. (Mine is Metcalf.) Got one? Good. Peppers is as good as that guy as a punt returner. Hands down. For all the talk of his ball skills and his lack of playmaking ability, Michigan is going to sorely miss his punt returning… not just for the ones he breaks for long returns, but for his vacuum-like ability to get to–and catch/fair catch–ANYthing. He not only flipped fields with big returns. He also saved Michigan countless “hidden” yards with his range and ability to always get to a punt and keep it from rolling another 10-15-20 yards. He had a ton of fair catches the past two years. That doesn’t look sexy. It also doesn’t account that teams scheme to keep the ball out of his hands in the return game, and it also doesn’t account for all of the potential field position yardage he saves by getting to all of those punts and catching them, preventing additional yardage.

    And, when he catches a punt with a tiny bit of space… fuhgeddaboutit.

    4. I don’t see him as an offensive weapon in the NFL. Partly because I’d rather he not get clobbered, and partly because he wasn’t ever able to really demonstrate that he could really take over a game that way. He had some nice zone read plays against the Rutgerses of the world, but… meh. Michigan was never able to utilize him as a true offensive threat, either because they chose not to (why??) or because they simply couldn’t. I’d rather we not give him too much too soon and let him learn to be a SS in the NFL.

    5. Fans on the Michigan site I read are worried that Browns fans will never give him a chance and hold him to an impossible standard, simply because he’s from OSU’s rival. I know we’re all better than that, right? Right? RIGHT??

    There are arguments about trading down from 12. I certainly would have been extremely happy with Hooker or Allen there. But, in a vacuum, if you’d told me at the start of the night that, with the 12th pick, the Browns would get Peppers as well as a first and second round pick, I’d have been totally ecstatic with that.

  • Dan

    Not surprised in regards to the trade down and the picks. Sashi is on record of not turning multiple picks into one pick. Here they turned the 12 pick (which consensus was they would pick either Howard or Hooker – so a TE or S) and a 4th round pick and turned it into getting a Safety and a TE and an extra 1st round pick. Not bad. I am also guessing that they had Peppers higher than other teams due to his physical capabilities and the types of defense Greg Williams wants to run.

  • mgbode

    Peppers is going to not only have to initially overcome being from Michigan, but being the player the Browns passed up fan-favorite Malik Hooker to take (at a similar but different position).

    I have faith that once people see him play, they’ll be over the moon. But, it’s going to take that to get there. Is it September yet?

  • Craig Miller

    One interception as a safety says it all.

  • WFNY_DP

    How about one interception as an outside line backer? Not only would that maybe “say it all” but it would do so more accurately.

  • Craig Miller

    I’m sorry, it is a just an opinion but the first round is not for experimentation. Drafting an undersized linebacker and moving him to safety is just another symptom of Browns Front Office Dementia. A stunt like this is usually reserved for later rounds. If you can’t pick an outstanding player at their natural position in the top 25 college players you are useless drafting professional players.

  • WFNY_DP

    Spend the 18 minutes and watch the YouTube I (and many others) shared above. I think it will change your mind. They’re not “converting” him to anything.

  • Steve

    Its always “one interception as a safety” and not “a whole heckuva lot of TFL or very short gains as a safety”.

    If there ever was a guy who you had to see play rather than look at the stats, Peppers is him. He filled a role that is the most critical at the college, like you said, covering the edge. With all the screens and options run at that level, that Michigan could cover so many of those with one guy is a huge reason they were #1 in defensive S&P+ going into their bowl game, which he missed, and their d gave up a whole bunch of points.

  • Steve

    I see it the complete opposite. This team should be swinging for the fences, and I love that they did with their second and third pick. They aren’t singles and doubles away from competing.

  • tsm

    As Yogi said when asked about his son – “even our similarities are different”

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