Jabrill Peppers is off to the NFL — we know, perhaps the least shocking news of the offseason.
Peppers made his announcement via an exclusive with Sports Illustrated.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 11, 2017
He leaves behind one of the most interesting legacies in Michigan football history. There’s no doubting his athletic ability, and that was on full display as he did so much for the Maize ‘N Blue this past season alone.
Just how big of a player was Peppers to the Wolverines in 2016? Per the Sports Illustrated article:
According to Michigan, Peppers lined up in 15 different positions on his 933 snaps this season, including quarterback, tailback and receiver. On defense he also logged time at nickelback, safety and cornerback.
All of that production landed Peppers a trip to New York City as one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy. Ultimately that award went to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, with Peppers finishing fifth in the final voting.
However, Peppers couldn’t be on the field for the final game of his collegiate career. A hamstring injury picked up in the final days leading up to the Orange Bowl against Florida State kept him out of a contest that could’ve used his versatility to help reverse a 33-32 loss.
Alas, the difficult decision is likely the right one for Peppers. There is literally nothing more he can do to increase his NFL prospects. Peppers informed head coach Jim Harbaugh of his decision on Monday, and the two had a good conversation according to SI.
“He thanked me and told me it was a pleasure to coach me,” Peppers said. “I told him it was a pleasure to play for him. He molded me for the next level, that’s how he operates. He runs his program like an NFL team. He’s done more than enough to prepare me for this moment.”
Peppers left it all on the field in his final season, becoming a key part to new defensive coordinator Don Brown’s plan as a hybrid linebacker/safety. It led him to end the year with 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one interception on the defensive end.
He also had 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. Add in another touchdown as a punt returner and a 26.0 yard per kick return average and you can see he affected the game plenty.
While Peppers is off the NFL Draft, just what his role would be in the NFL is far less certain. Some believe he’s a great fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker or hybrid safety. Others believe it is going to take a coach with some real imagination to get the best out of him as an every-down player.