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Pick: Round 1, Pick 25
Weight: 213 lbs.
After surprising no one by taking Myles Garrett at No. 1, the Browns turned heads by trading down to take Michigan’s all-around stud Jabrill Peppers in the later stages of the first round.
As far as college defensive players go, Peppers is about as notable as they come. He took snaps at literally every position (well…not actually) during his time at Michigan and seemed to excel wherever he played. He even garnered some Heisman love for his versatility and overall athletic ability.
The transition to the NFL is where things get murky for Peppers. He is equally as talented and explosive as just about anyone currently in the league, but his lack of a true position raises questions. When it comes to Peppers’ outlook as an NFL player, it is not a question of skill, but simply a question of where to put him.
“I think Peppers’ versatility was great,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. “It also worked against him because he never could show what he could be to really define one position and really work that position.”
The New Jersey native made history this spring by being the first player in modern combine history to work out as both a linebacker and defensive back. As a linebacker, he simply blew out the competition in speed drills. His 4.46 40-yard-dash time was easily tops at the position with the second fastest time coming in at 4.58. Peppers is freakishly athletic, possibly too athletic for the linebacker position, which has led many to dub him as a safety.
“I think he’s a safety,” Kiper said. “He’s tested well. He’s explosive athletically.”
While he certainly possesses the physical abilities to play safety, he still has ways to go in developing the mental side of his game, an essential part of playing the safety position. After all, he recorded just one interception in his time at Michigan.
One area where Peppers projects to have an instant impact is in the return game. He returned one punt for a touchdown last season, but with more experience, a player with the speed and explosiveness of Peppers can make returning punts to the house much more of a habit.
Peppers might have come to the NFL at the perfect time, as there has not been more of an emphasis on versatility in many years. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will likely have to devote a special amount of planning for Peppers, but his versatility will surely be a key asset for this young Browns defense.
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