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Packers could use someone like Jabrill Peppers

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Packers could use someone like Jabrill Peppers

Could Jabrill Peppers help save the Packers defense?

Could Jabrill Peppers help save the Packers defense?

The Green Bay Packers have a lot of needs to address in the next few months, but when it comes to adding speed and versatility to the defense, no one would be better than Jabrill Peppers of Michigan.

Peppers is a linebacker/safety/corner/return specialist/running back that played essentially just two full seasons for the Wolverines. In that time, he showed the ability to make explosive plays in all three phases of the game.

In terms of big plays, Green Bay makes plenty of those on offense. Aaron Rodgers and the boys have that covered. Yet, on the defensive side of the ball, it’s plain to see, the Packers are lacking when it comes to impact players.

That’s where Peppers comes in.

As recently as a month or two ago, Peppers was being talked about as a top-5 pick. Many assumed he would be a sure-fire top-10 selection.

However, teams started to grow concerned about his lack of a true position and probably his lack of size to be a three-down linebacker (6-1, 205). And it’s understandable. At Michigan he played all over the place. He has only played linebacker for one year, before that he was a safety, before that a corner.

In two college seasons, Peppers notched 11 passes defensed, but just one interception. He did add 119 tackles, 13 for loss. He also had three sacks and scored a punt return touchdown, while averaging 26.8 yards per kick return and 13.1 per punt.

Peppers may not have a true position, but look at his skills: He can tackle, play the ball, cover, blitz, he can play at the line of scrimmage or off of it. He is an NFL coaches dream and for the Packers, he is a perfect fit.

Like previous nickel corners such as Charles Woodson and pending free-agent Micah Hyde, Peppers isn’t afraid to be physical and play near the line of scrimmage. His closing speed off the edge is impressive and whether it was as a nickel corner, safety, linebacker or some kind of hybrid role that fit among all three, Peppers could play it.

Peppers could also make an immediate impact in the return game. He’s electrifying with the ball in his hands and allowing him to use his talent returning kicks is important. He’s good enough to be a game changer there. And if he is used properly, he could become a game changer on defense too.

With his speed and natural athleticsim, Peppers has the ability to excel at multiple places, but one place I would start, is nickel corner. The Michigan junior has often said he wants to follow in the footsteps of Charles Woodson -- if he wound up in Green Bay -- he would be given every chance to do just that.

And with his kind of skills, Peppers may even be able to do it. We all know there is nothing the Packers need more than a defensive playmaker, so getting Peppers in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, would be a glorious gift. 

But will Ted Thompson be bold enough to pull the trigger? 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Rossonero's picture

I'd love to have Jabrill Peppers. The Packers love versatility, so I'd be surprised if they passed on him. However, if does well at the Combine, he might be long gone by the time the Packers pick.

If other teams are scared of him not having a true position, then that's on them and I'm fine with that. Remember, Morgan Burnett will be a FA in 2018 and may not be retained eventually for salary cap reasons. Peppers could be slotted in at safety.

Or, he could provide CB depth and be another hybrid player with a very unique skillset. Guys that Jim Harbaugh coaches play physical. That's exactly what our secondary needs right now.

MarkinMadison's picture

Do you spend a first round pick on a nickel corner? Do the packers draft a hybrid S/LB when that is the role already being filled by Morgan Burnett? Does he have enough speed to play where the Packers really need help - the outside corner position? Is a DB with one, one, career interceptiona fit for Capers' defense? I think the answer to all of these questions is "no."

Rossonero's picture

I think this assessment is spot on from

Athletic and fluid in space with desired change of direction talent. Moves with the changing flow of a play. Willing to sacrifice body to honor contain against run. Jack of all trades. Can play slot, safety or linebacker in sub-packages in any given game. Won't hesitate to race downhill once he diagnoses run. Hits with as much force as he can muster. Has big closing burst. Runs plays down from sideline to sideline. Able to knife into gaps and make tackles for losses or disrupt runs. Has man cover talent and is physical enough to handle most tight ends. Has enough quickness to match receivers. Aggressively re-routes receivers. Capable blitzer who buzzes in from all angles. Electric return man with ability to charge up crowd and his own sideline with big kick or punt return. Has experience carrying and catching the ball and as wildcat quarterback. Could offer red-zone flexibility on offense.

Scouts question his instincts and lack of ball production. Has just one interception and 10 passes defensed at Michigan. Slow to recognize construct of play and can be found playing through a straw at times. Needs better recognition and anticipation to become an improvising play-maker. Doesn't always trust his feet in coverage and will maul at the top of the route. Just a guy when asked to play deep safety. Slow to read and range until ball is in the air. Can be overzealous against play-action and drawn below his deep ball responsibilities. Too small for take-on duties at linebacker. Leads into tackles with ducked head. Opts to hit rather than wrap-up.

Sources Tell Us
"These comparisons to Charles Woodson are nuts. Both are really good return men, but Woody is one of the greatest playmakers of all-time. Peppers has one interception and I don't think he's ever forced a fumble. Michigan might move him around too much. He will really improve when he can lock in and learn a position." -- AFC Director of Scouting

NFL Comparison
Eric Weddle

Bottom Line
The ultimate Swiss Army Knife on the collegiate level, and will likely play a hybrid role on the next level that allows him to blitz, cover and chase, Peppers' draft value will be helped by his return ability and that is a role he should maintain throughout the earlier stages of his career. While Peppers doesn't have the production teams expect from first-round defenders, he should benefit from a role that is more clearly defined on the next level.

dobber's picture

From CBSSports...

STRENGTHS: Peppers possesses a compact, muscular frame and the easy athleticism that translates well to the NFL. Peppers is one of the most instinctive players in the country, showing terrific awareness and the closing speed to take full advantage of his awareness. He accelerates quickly, showing the quick-twitch burst to flash through gaps and close on ballcarriers and easily changes directions, possessing loose hips, greasy knees and flexible ankles to elude would-be blockers or defenders attempting to tackle him, alike. Peppers' agility and acceleration help him remain in the hip pocket of receivers, helping him project well to safety or even cornerback at the next level, should that be the need of his future NFL team. Despite his lack of ideal size for playing near the line of scrimmage, Peppers is a highly competitive and surprisingly physical defender, unselfishly taking on blockers to push ballcarriers toward the cavalry. Though he will occasionally come in too hot and leave himself off-balanced, Peppers is a very reliable open-field tackler, showing impressive closing speed and surprising pop with his hits. He wraps securely and does not back down from bigger ballcarriers, showing toughness and technique, alike, to limit yards after contact. Peppers is a natural with the ball in his hands, showing excellent vision, patience, elusiveness and acceleration as a returner. Though he only has one career interception, Peppers tracks the ball well and shows good hands, including the ability to pluck outside of his frame. Peppers possesses excellent straight-line speed. He won the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash at the New Jersey Meet of Championships as a junior and senior, becoming the second male in meet history to win both events in consecutive years, breaking the state record in the 200 meter dash with a time of 20.79 seconds in the championship meet as a junior.
WEAKNESSES: Will be viewed by some as a tweener, lacking the bulk to remain close to the line of scrimmage, and has limited experience playing deep in coverage. He is surprisingly strong but is often reliant upon avoiding rather than taking on blocks and is knocked to the ground too often, struggling to recover when knocked off-balance. He is hyper-aggressive in pursuit, attacking the ball with such fervor that he leaves cutback lanes for savvy ballcarriers to exploit. This issue is exacerbated by Peppers' lack of ideal length, leaving him grasping at air as runners hesitate and let him run by. Despite his reputation as a playmaker, Peppers recorded just one interception (and one forced fumble) during his college career.

IN OUR VIEW: A wolverine personified, what Peppers lacks in size he makes up for with ferocity and speed. Michigan featured him on offense, defense and special teams and his NFL team would be wise to do the same as Peppers is a natural playmaker capable of starring in any number of roles, depending on the down, distance and creativity of his coaches.

COMPARES TO: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers (retired) -- Few players can match Polamalu's instincts, improvisation and flair for the dramatic but Peppers is close. He will occasionally frustrate with his over-aggressive style of play but like Polamalu, Peppers will make more big plays than he will ever surrender.

Rossonero's picture

While I agree the comparisons are a stretch in his defense, he was shuffled around to a lot of positions. As the assessments note, once he is settled into a position in the NFL, that will undoubtedly help his development.

dobber's picture

I agree with you: those Pittsburgh defenses were remarkably different when Polamalu wasn't playing. He elevated the play of that defense dramatically. I don't necessarily see that in Peppers.

I posted this simply to provide a foil for the scout which was not nearly so positive. Such polar reviews of a player scream "buyer beware"...especially early in the draft.

stockholder's picture

If he fell to the packers i'd grab him! Great Kid and player. Fast is better than a CB Bust. And thats exactly what you may get when TT reaches for a CB. The game of football is not about Stats. Too many of you put your arguments on that. Two kids made the wolverines a very good team, Peppers and Lewis. And 'llI go on record saying the wolverines would have beat Florida if peppers wasn't hurt.

Spud Rapids's picture

I'd agree if he falls grab him but my gut says he'll be a bust. You have to take a chance on a guy like that because the upside is so high, however, you can't teach instincts and that's what worries. I think Capers would utilize him correctly if he ended up on the Pack. I forsee his ideal role as covering tight ends and ranging form side to side to take away the flats on 3rd down passing plays.

stockholder's picture

To many players in this draft are hope and prayers. I can't see white or Jones. ( Major Reach) The biggest thing is speed and Tackling for a CB. None of these guys have both. Peppers is what TT should have drafted the last 3 years. He had so many big plays! He won't get to the packers anyway. That leaves McKinley a UCLA product. Not happening after Datone Jones and Clark. Tim Williams should be the pick this year. BUT CHARACTER QUESTIONS, AND PERRY AND JONES COULD BE SIGNED YET. I feel TT will be drafting McCaffey RB. Yet. And look for Desmond King CB 2nd round. With a WR in the 3rd. It all centers around Perry and Jones. My favorite rushers are still Williams and Willis.

stockholder's picture

Not according to MM. Or Capers defense. They have to tackle. And Jerrod Bush sure didn't have coverage ability, ball skills, or quickness. The biggest need is the swivel hips , and make up speed. Thats what Shields had. Coverage can be taught. Speed can't. Williams had speed. It took to many years for williams and Shields to learn how to tackle. You aren't going to get that TIME anymore. If they don't sign Lacy. McCafferey is going to be the pick . (Of course your better than Kiper now. )

Censored's picture

"But will Ted Thompson be bold enough to pull the trigger?" lol no

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

The packers don't have the luxury of drafting someone like peppers. Instead of the usual square peg /round hole they draft and don't develop, he seems like a triangle shaped peg. But in the end he's probably just a faster version of Hyde and there's way to much to fix on this team to think about him. Or Christian McCaffrey. 1st, 2nd and 3rd round have to be actual LB's and CB'S who actually played the position in college and we need to be able to pencil them in as day one starters for this d to have a prayer of being top 20. The lack of talent is downright embarrassing.

dobber's picture

This Packers defense made a complete 180 from 2015 to 2016 in that it was a group that you begged other teams to throw against in 2015 because they couldn't consistently stop the run, and begged teams to run against in 2016 because they couldn't shut down even mediocre QBs. The question that needs to be answered is: was the change due to teams trying to exploit one Packer subgroup, or due to one Packer subgroup being markedly better than the other?

Bert's picture

Peppers may be a good player but expecting him or any other rookie to somehow save the defense in 2017 is wishful thinking. We either sign a couple vet FAs or hope Rollins, Randall, Clark, Martinez etc. etc. take a big leap or we'll be pretty much depending on AR and the offense to outscore their opponents for 17 weeks and beyond........again.

dobber's picture


Ivan's picture
MITM's picture

Jabrill Peppers couldnt hold Charles Woodsons jock. This kid is one of the most legitimately overrated college players ive seen in a long time. Jim Harbaugh and Michigan did a fantastic job of selling this kid all the way to being a Heisman trophy finalist. Shaq Thompson was way more productive in the same line of work as Peppers and NEVER had that hype around him. The Woodson comparisons are laughable.

Mags's picture

Must be a Buckeye or Huskie fan.

MITM's picture

No allegiance to any college team except the D1AA school I played middle linebacker for. mitm = man in the middle...desertpackfan gives you the numbers a few posts down on peppers...overrated AF

marpag1's picture

I agree that Peppers is overrated. He's good. He's overrated because some people place value on his ability to run the wildcat or be a receiver, etc in college. But none of that crap should matter in my evaluation of the player. I see at least two players in this draft who are clearly better safeties than Peppers.

I mean, suppose the Packers draft Peppers. Are we really going to take ARod off the field so that Peppers can stand in and run the wildcat??

Don't be fooled by the "extras." Extras are nothing.

Lphill's picture

No thanks another experiment ? How about we draft a linebacker to play linebacker and a corner to play corner.

Tundraboy's picture

Thank you. No experiments. This obsession with versatility is tiring. There is no mystery as to what this team needs. Talent at CB and OLB.,especially. Draft BPAs and the veteran FAs necessary to drastically improve D or nothing will change.

Bert's picture

Agree!!! Let's forget the obsession with CBs and OLBs and just draft the BPA and hope he/she turns into an impact Pro Bowl type player.

marpag1's picture

THE "MARPAG RULE": Never, never, never draft a safety (or whatever) because he can return kicks, or because he can take snaps in the wildcat, or because he could slide in as a LB, or because he can play a little receiver, or because he's hell on wheels as a gunner. ONLY draft him if he is the very best player remaining at his primary position.

"Slash" players generally disappoint. Some GMs haven't figured out that "all of this awesome stuff" that a player can do is NOT cumulative to the player's value. If the player is ho-hum at his primary position, nothing else matters. Even if Pepper can play a little receiver, he WON'T be better than your "real" receivers, etc.

This is a decent year for high-end safeties. In my opinion, there are at least two and maybe more players who are better pure safeties than Peppers. That might push him down the board a ways. If he's available and the Packers take him, I'd probably be disappointed. Safety is probably our best stocked position on defense.

There was ONE time (and only one time) when I was clearly right about a draft choice and Ron Wolf was clearly wrong. It was his very first pick in GB. I am literally screaming for him to take Troy Vincent out of Wisconsin. Ron takes Buckley.... he said T-Buck was really good at returning punts. And that's the only time I was right and Wolf was wrong.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I agree with all that you wrote here and in another comment. IDK anything about Jabril Peppers. I see wrote that he had no instincts, and poor anticipation (both of which Woodson had in abundance - it was his essence combined with tremendous athleticism). CBS seems to have another take. I'll have to watch video and look at the combine results, but the lack of INTs suggests that might be correct about Peppers' instincts and anticipation.

I was just looking at our roster from a moneyball perspective. Drafting a slot WR to develop in 2017 and possibly replace Cobb in 2018 saves about $9M in cap. Drafting an OLB to replace CM3 (or leverage a pay cut) or replace Datone should he receive a 1 year prove it deal also produces some cap savings. Developing Brice or drafting a safety might make Burnett expendable: Burnett is a UFA in 2018; he will be 29, has missed some time, and seems to be transitioning to a more physically demanding role (ILB). Burnett has really improved IMO, so it is not that I am down on him or anything, just being cold-blooded. Burnett's play was very good, but that does not necessarily mean that a year from now I will want to give him another 4 yr deal (he'd be 33 at the end of it) at $8M or more AAV, but I might be willing to do that if structured properly. Otherwise, I don't see any big-money players that I don't want to keep, since the others are playing up to their contracts at present.

As a note, GB has until May 2, 2017, to pick up the 5th year (2018) option on Clinton Dix. Teams wait as long as possible to pick up the option. I assume TT will do that, or sign him long-term. Last year the 5th yr. option for safeties not taken in the first 10 picks (average of the 3rd to 25th highest paid safeties) was $5.68M.

dobber's picture

"I was just looking at our roster from a moneyball perspective. Drafting a slot WR to develop in 2017 and possibly replace Cobb in 2018 saves about $9M in cap."

Jordy Nelson is the present and future of the slot WR position in GB. He played a significant number of snaps there in 2016 and was very productive (a la Larry Fitzgerald). I would expect the Packers to look for an outside WR before looking for another slot guy.

dobber's picture

" He doesn't belong in any sentence w/ Woodson"

How about, "Peppers is no Charles Woodson...and probably not a Rod Woodson, for that matter"?

4thand1's picture

This a perfect Packer draft pick, A player with no true position. They've been doing this forever, Monty a running back, DE's into OLBer's, safetys into corners, slot receivers into outside receivers, Barclay into a offensive lineman (puke).

dobber's picture

"They've been doing this forever, Monty a running back, ..."

OK...every team does this to some extent. Most of us just don't watch other teams enough to know how much.

For all we know, the experiment really was Monty at WR. Some scouts said his natural position was RB when he was coming out. Let's see how he pans out before we're too critical of him moving to RB. At least some of the initial returns on this move were favorable.

JacFrost's picture

Im a big m fan and i thought Peppers was way over hyped. I think he is too small for lb and could be an ok but not great d back. His speed will not impress at the nfl level like it did in college. Just sayin,......

stockholder's picture

I compare peppers to dion Jones ILB for the falcons last year. Jones ran a 4.59 at the combine, but 4.39 in a private work out. Jones was 6.1. 220, and peppers is 210 6.0. More than likely the same speed. Jones a little more of a hitter. TT passed last year on Jones. But I think he'd take peppers. Just because the versatility is better. And Peppers is going to run 4.4 most of the time..

Since '61's picture

The Packers don't need another player without a position, especially one who hasn't made plays at the college level. We have had enough players switching positions and coming from other sports (Dimitri Goodson for example). Let's move on from that and make legitimate attempts to fills the gaps in our roster. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

Here here!

Turophile's picture

Packers are quite likely to take a player out of position when they go for an OLB early (which they should, as their need there will be great, and good OLBs go real quickly). 50/50 chance when they draft for that, they get a DE that they try to convert.

If your philosophy is almost pure D&D (which the Packers is), then guys with very little experience tend to get put in to play early. Forcing players to make position changes as well, from what they did well in college, just adds yet another layer of difficulty to guys whose heads are usually already spinning with the complexity of the NFL.

I understand it can be difficult to find what you want in (for example) a 3-4 type OLB, because the job requirement asks them to do so much, block huge guys, cover sprinters, blitz QBs.

Safety/LB hybrid is currently in vogue, but if you want to make maximum improvement in the team, then CB, OLB, TE, should be the positions addressed early. You could make a good case for another receiver that can fly up the sideline, as well, but the Packers will likely give speedster Trevor Davis another year to show what he has (and he needs another stone of good weight on his frame). RB can wait until rounds 4/5 as long as Lacy is re-signed.

Anyway, I'm rambling now, so no to Safety Peppers, no to RB McCaffrey (very skillful, but too slight), no to super athlete Adoree Jasckson (gives up too many big plays). Finally, buyer beware on getting fixated on a Name. Watt does not automatically mean a J.J.Watt level of ability - so forget T.J.'s surname and go by the tape.

dobber's picture

I find myself wondering if his history of knee issues will push him down some teams' boards.

dobber's picture

You would think, but there was significant media discussion a year ago about how teams are coveting players with "clean" medical histories more and more.

stockholder's picture

I would bet peppers goes to detroit. I still see McCaffrey still to the packers. He broke barry Sanders all purpose yards. TT would still take him. Jackson will be a trade up in the 2nd round. ( If only he could tackle) TJ is to slow. Will never make the first round because of past injury.

stockholder's picture

Tim williams and willis will be better players! TT goes offense before Watt!

stockholder's picture

Followed the pack's draft for years including TTs. Try Sherrod as a first pick! Someone still will take a chance on Williams. And if the packers don't sign Perry or Jones, he may get a second chance. Why? Because TT has brought in players with issues before. McCafferey is Monty? Thats Horse poop. He broke Barry Sanders record. Do you really have any comprehension when it comes to players TT may take? You wanted a LB. I gave you two better than Watt. Watt did not dominate. And it's easy to see you did not watch the shrine bowl. Or listen to the scouts that covered it. Willis is just behind Watt in many rankings for top 100 players. Much Faster player that can dominate. The difference is being physical. Your comments, still are gone.

idgafkurt's picture

Never understood the Peppers hype. Seems highly overrated to me. There are way better options for a true CB (or pass rusher) in this draft at #29. Even if they wanted a more "Swiss-army knife" DB in round 1 I think Desmond King is a far superior player in that role.

Colin_C's picture

I used to be on the Peppers train, but now I probably wouldn't even take him in the 2nd. He's average size for a safety, not really anything amazing returning punts, and forces very few plays. If you want a legit two way player, Adoree Jackson is fantastic. Wayyyyy more athletic than Peppers.

DraftHobbyist's picture

If Peppers can succeed anywhere it's in Green Bay. Dom's Defense is built for a player like him. If we took him, we could use him as a CB in the short-term that plays some nickle-backer and upgrade our returning on ST's. In the long-term, we could let Burnett walk potentially and have Peppers take over. There are other ways to go in the NFL Draft, but for the Packers, Peppers should at least be considered.

JacFrost's picture

I think maccafrey will be a god pick for someone. He has speed and skill. I think ted keeps lacy on the cheap and thus does not need to spend a high pick n mac. Too bad he would have been a nice addition but defense is the first need and mac aint going to be around n the third or forth. Would not be shocked to lions take mac or peppers.

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