A New Jersey kid who wanted to play for Michigan because of Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, Peppers' home life wasn't easy. His father spent most of Jabrill's childhood in jail, and his brother was shot and killed seven years ago. Football seems to be his calling, though, as he was named the 2013 USA Today High School Defensive Player of the Year while also starring on offense and in track (won 100 meters and 200 meters at state in both his junior and senior years.) Peppers' collegiate career was sidetracked due to a leg injury after three games (one start, eight tackles). He picked up the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Award and first-team all-conference in 2015 (5.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass break-ups; 72 rush yards, 2 TDs; 27.9 kick return average, 11.4 punt return average). Last fall, he was the conference Linebacker of the Year and first-team honoree (72 tackles, 16 for loss, four sacks, one INT). He did not play in the Orange Bowl, however, due to a hamstring injury that flared up in practice.
Athletic and fluid in space with desired change of direction talent. Moves with the changing flow of a play. Willing to sacrifice body to honor contain against run. Jack of all trades. Can play slot, safety or linebacker in sub-packages in any given game. Won't hesitate to race downhill once he diagnoses run. Hits with as much force as he can muster. Has big closing burst. Runs plays down from sideline to sideline. Able to knife into gaps and make tackles for losses or disrupt runs. Has man cover talent and is physical enough to handle most tight ends. Has enough quickness to match receivers. Aggressively re-routes receivers. Capable blitzer who buzzes in from all angles. Electric return man with ability to charge up crowd and his own sideline with big kick or punt return. Has experience carrying and catching the ball and as wildcat quarterback. Could offer red-zone flexibility on offense.
Scouts question his instincts and lack of ball production. Has just one interception and 10 passes defensed at Michigan. Slow to recognize construct of play and can be found playing through a straw at times. Needs better recognition and anticipation to become an improvising play-maker. Doesn't always trust his feet in coverage and will maul at the top of the route. Just a guy when asked to play deep safety. Slow to read and range until ball is in the air. Can be overzealous against play-action and drawn below his deep ball responsibilities. Too small for take-on duties at linebacker. Leads into tackles with ducked head. Opts to hit rather than wrap-up.
Sources Tell Us
"These comparisons to Charles Woodson are nuts. Both are really good return men, but Woody is one of the greatest playmakers of all-time. Peppers has one interception and I don't think he's ever forced a fumble. Michigan might move him around too much. He will really improve when he can lock in and learn a position." -- AFC Director of Scouting
The ultimate Swiss Army Knife on the collegiate level, and will likely play a hybrid role on the next level that allows him to blitz, cover and chase, Peppers' draft value will be helped by his return ability and that is a role he should maintain throughout the earlier stages of his career. While Peppers doesn't have the production teams expect from first-round defenders, he should benefit from a role that is more clearly defined on the next level.