Jabrill Peppers: Probably Not For Packers
I am fascinated by Michigan Swiss Army knife Jabrill Peppers. That is partially because I am a Michigan fan, but also because the guy is an athlete who can change a game in so many ways.
While primarily a defender, he played seven different positions for the Wolverines — corner, safety, linebacker, running back, receiver, QB (Wildcat) and returner. That’s more than former Wolverine (and Packer) Charles Woodson did at Michigan.
Peppers made plays all over the field. He changed games. Unfortunately for him, there are plenty of questions about where he’ll fit at the NFL level.
Not surprisingly, that has him high on some draft boards and not nearly as high on others. NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks calls him the most polarizing prospect in the 2017 draft.
At 6-1, 207, he doesn’t quite have the linebacker build. Peppers probably isn’t quite good enough in coverage to play cornerback. Most people seem to be pointing towards him as a safety, but some think he’d be better finding a home on offense.
There’s obviously no consensus and while I’ve heard a lot of people suggesting the Green Bay Packers draft Peppers, I just don’t see it happening for a number of reasons.
First, Peppers is the type of player that the coaching staff would have to adapt their schemes to his strengths. In other words, put him in a position to make plays. While we’ve heard Mike McCarthy pay lip service to that idea in the past, the Packers never actually do that. They always run the schemes they’re comfortable with — on the both sides of the ball — and jam the personnel they have into roles, regardless of whether it’s a square peg in a round hole.
Second, let’s say the Packers decide Peppers’ best role is at safety. Well, they have plenty of safeties with Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans. That group will number five if Micah Hyde is re-signed. The thing about those safeties, with the exception of Hyde, is they’re all pretty similar. We’ve said time and again that both Burnett and Clinton-Dix are better near the line of scrimmage. Brice, the heaviest hitter of the bunch, probably is too.
If Peppers ends up as an NFL safety, everything points to him being a strong safety, i.e. the position where the Packers already have too many guys.
What about linebacker? These guys are night and day in terms of athleticism, but we saw what happened when the Packers played the undersized Joe Thomas extensively in 2016. Guys plowed right over or through him time and again. When he wasn’t getting run over, he was being swallowed up by blockers. If Peppers plays linebacker in the pros, he’s much more suited for a 4-3 defense where offensive linemen aren’t getting to the second level as much. Peppers would get blocked easily and often in the Packers’ 3-4.
The bottom line is the Packers would have to get creative with a guy like Peppers and play to his strengths. And when is the last time anyone called the Packers creative?