The Cleveland Browns are starting the 2017 season with a bunch of new faces on the team. This includes the 2017 draft class who could have a tremendous impact on this upcoming year. The Browns made three picks in the first round with Jabrill Peppers being one of those picks.
He was drafted as a safety but is capable of so much more. Peppers was a three-way player at Michigan and earned the Paul Horning Award for NCAA College Football’s Most Versatile Player. He took 933 snaps at 15 different positions last year. 726 of those came on the defense, 53 on offense and 154 on special teams. No one doubts his athleticism, but some will argue that Peppers doesn’t excel at one thing. Although the rookie will need some time to grow into the safety position and improve his coverage skills, he is a sure tackler. He recorded 72 tackles (16 for a loss) and four sacks in his final year at Michigan.
Peppers comes in standing at 5’11” and weighing 213 pounds. The hard-hitting safety was a surprise draft pick in the first round and shows similarities to a former Cleveland Brown, Eric Turner. This man stood at 6’1,” weighed 208 pounds and was drafted in the first round of the 1991 draft. The surprise is, he was selected second overall, the highest selection for a DB in NFL history.
As a rookie, Turner had an immediate impact on the team. He registered 84 tackles, two interceptions with one going for a touchdown in just eight games (seven starts). Turner missed half the season with a stress fracture in his left leg. The strong safety returned the following season to notch 119 tackles and helped improve the Browns to 7-9. In 1993, Turner revealed his versatility by switching to free safety and set a career high 159 tackles. The Browns record remained the same, but the defense was starting to come together. Cleveland’s defense, in terms of yardage, was ranked 12th overall and 13th against the pass.
Turner’s best year with Cleveland was the 1994 season. His tackle output dropped to 82, but he led the league with nine interceptions on his way to his first Pro Bowl. The Browns D was ranked number one as they led the NFL in scoring defense. They held their opponents to just 204 points. That averages out to 12.75 points per game! Cleveland earned a playoff spot, beat the Patriots in the Wild Card Round, but lost to the Steelers in the Divisional Round.
After a brief history lesson, my point is that Jabrill Peppers could have an impact like Eric Turner did back in the 90’s. They were both young, hard hitting safeties joining a struggling Cleveland team. Turner and Peppers are both intimidating tacklers, but the only difference is Peppers has to refine his coverage skills. I mean, the kid has the talent. He just has to learn the pro game and grow into his role. I believe Peppers will have tackling numbers that mirror Turner’s early years. I can’t predict if Peppers will ever lead the league in interceptions, but his versatility should allow him more opportunities. If he lines up all across the field, he could be put in more positions for a turnover.
Ultimately, the Cleveland Browns are in a rebuilding youth movement and truth be told, coming off a one win season, expectations are low. I have faith in this youth movement though and believe things will turn around. They have playmakers in place and just need some time to settle in. I’m not predicting playoffs or double digit wins, but even a five win season would signify dramatic improvement. The preseason kicks off this Thursday when the Browns host the Saints at First Energy Stadium. Keep your eyes on Jabrill Peppers.
Max Gold is a Senior Writer For Cleveland Sports Talk
Follow the author: @CST_Max_Gold
Image design via Mike Bartow
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