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Rethinking Jabrill Peppers as a 2017 NFL Draft Prospect

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Jabrill Peppers is one of the most debated prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. He is a superlative athlete, but his position isn’t clear in the NFL.

Through this whole process, he has been a guy I have struggled to figure out. On the stat sheet, there were not a ton of impact plays you would like to see from a linebacker or safety prospect. Still, Peppers didn’t look like a pure workout warrior to me. I couldn’t put the pieces together.

You might be familiar with the work of my SB Nation colleague Brett Kollmann. Brett has been putting together a lot of great prospect breakdowns ahead of this year’s NFL Draft.

Brett wasn’t a big Peppers fan himself until he went back and watched more. After a lot of study, Brett was finally able to figure out what Peppers’ role was in the Michigan defense. Rather than being a linebacker or a safety, Peppers had one big job, preventing runners from busting plays outside. Once I saw what Brett had to say, everything clicked. That’s why I felt like I was watching a good player even though the stats weren’t there.

This is an important thing to remember when watching prospects. In their systems, they are asked to perform roles that do not always show up on the stat sheet. A playcall asks you to do a specific job, which sometimes limits your playmaking ability. It is one of the things to remember when evaluating a Draft prospect. They have to execute the play as called, which doesn’t always maximize their ability to do big things.

Brett’s video is embedded below. You can watch for yourself to see whether you are convinced.

I am not sure how much any of this matters for the Jets. Peppers is still not a viable option for the sixth pick, and i have a hunch he’ll be gone before the second rounder the Jets have. This breakdown would make me more confident if Peppers did fall and was available in round two, though.