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.