With just two years of full-time college football experience and no defined position, Jabrill Peppers is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft class. At 5’11” and 213 pounds, Peppers has been projected as everything from a kick returner to a linebacker — oh, and he played some running back at Michigan as well.
But is he a fit with Oakland? The fact that he plays defense — albeit doesn’t have a ‘natural position’ — helps, as does the fact that the Raiders have holes all over the place on that side of the ball.
In looking at mock drafts, there isn’t any consensus among experts about whether he’ll be available for Oakland — Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have him going after the Raiders, while three of the five NFL.com writers have him gone before Oakland picks — so who knows.
But what do our writers think?
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel)
While I’m concerned about exactly what position Peppers will play at the next level, the good news for him is that the Raiders need help everywhere he’s projected.
Linebacker? Sure they’ll take one. Safety? Wouldn’t hurt. Slot corner? Yes, please.
One of the Raiders’ biggest needs over the past few years has been a linebacker that can cover tight ends and a slot corner that can come in for nickel packages — to think that they could find one guy to alternate between both spots would be ideal. Plus, a year from now when Reggie Nelson is gone (if he lasts that long), you’ve got a potential replacement to pair with last year’s first rounder Karl Joseph.
With all that said, I don’t think Peppers is the ideal pick for Oakland. They have greater needs at inside linebacker and defensive tackle. BUT, if Cunningham, Davis and Reddick are all off the board then snagging Peppers could make sense and they can fill need at linebacker with the second pick.
Dan LeBaron (@DTLeBaron)
Jabrill Peppers was considered a superstar during his time in Ann Arbor, but not because of elite stats. He only put up 111 combined tackles, three sacks and one interception over his past two seasons as a starter for the Wolverines. His value was his versatility; he lined up all over the field as a running back, kick returner, safety and outside linebacker. His primary role on defense was to seal the edge against opposing runners, forcing them to run into Michigan's dominant defensive line—a role he excelled at, but didn't usually result in tackles for him personally.
Peppers was willing to sacrifice some of his own draft capital by spending time all over the field, resulting in less tape for scouts to evaluate at a specialized position group, which speaks to his unselfish mentality and leadership skills. That being said, Peppers is by no means a lock to succeed as a safety (the position at which most teams view him) at the NFL level.
His hybrid role meant he was never able to focus on the nuances of one particular position. Peppers was a thudding tackler, but was often tossed around by offensive lineman in the run game and a step behind in coverage in the passing game. Against Ohio State in "The Game," he couldn't combat NFL prospect Curtis Samuel's elusiveness on several vital plays down the stretch and on film against NFL-caliber players, he often didn't look fast enough. The Raiders need to improve on defense, but they shouldn't do it by gambling on another big bodied player in their secondary who might not be consistent enough in coverage.
If you look at the nfl.com scouting report of Jabrill Peppers, perchance the first line will catch your eye. It reads: "A New Jersey kid who wanted to play at Michigan because of Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson." Be still my beating heart. I stopped reading right there because nothing could have made me want to draft Peppers more or less than this sentence.
I don't know what Peppers is at this point. He's played corner, linebacker and safety. He's played on offense and special teams — like Woodson. He's nowhere near the lockdown cover man Woodson was, nor is he a playmaker on Woodson's level. But let's keep in mind that Charles Woodson is legitimately one of the top 20 players in football history and is a living legend, so let's cool our jets here.
At the Combine Peppers showed without a doubt he is one of the most athletic, explosive and good-natured athletes in this upcoming draft. I don't know if the Raiders put him at linebacker, safety, slot corner or third receiver and frankly it doesn't matter because he can return punts too.
What matters is, Jabrill Peppers was born to play in one uniform, and that's the Silver and Black.
Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)
My opinion of Peppers fluctuates a great deal. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. He’s just such a phenomenal athlete that one minute you marvel at his ceiling, while the next you worry about his floor.
The big question mark about Peppers comes from not playing enough at any one position to pin him down as a player you can insert day one as a starter anywhere. Though safety is where he appears to project at the NFL level. If he is picked on day one, it will be to a team who has a situation where they can take the chance on his upside as well as perhaps wait for him to reach it.
The Raiders are a 13-3 offense with a 6-10 defense. They need immediate starters and in a draft that is deep at defensive back and linebacker, there will very likely be someone on the board who offers just what the Raiders need. Peppers has the looks of a tail end of the first round or second round type prospect.
What would you do if Jabrill Peppers were available at 24?
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