Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers intends to apply for early eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, adding one of college football's most versatile and exciting athletes to the selection pool.
Peppers revealed his intentions on Tuesday to Sports Illustrated.
Peppers, a redshirt sophomore, played a variety of positions for the Wolverines over the last two years, but was primarily used at linebacker in 2016 and at safety as a freshman in 2015. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh harnessed his unique athleticism in various other roles, however, including running back, kickoff returns and punt returns. Not surprisingly, Peppers won the Paul Hornung Award last month, which is presented to the nation's most versatile player.
Peppers has been compared to Arizona Cardinals All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. An NFC executive projected Peppers as a top-five draft choice in November, while another NFL scout holds him in higher regard as a prospect than the Jacksonville Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 2016. NFL clubs with a significant draft need at safety include the Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College underclassmen face a Jan. 16 deadline to apply for early draft eligibility.
Peppers made 72 tackles, including a team-high 16 for losses on the season for the Wolverines. He did not play in Michigan's 33-32 Orange Bowl loss to Florida State due to injury. Peppers is undersized (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) to play linebacker at the NFL level, but figures to be a prized selection as a defensive back. On special teams, he returned 10 kickoffs for 260 yards and 21 punts for 310, a 14.8-yard average. He also rushed 27 times for 167 yards and three touchdowns, often on direct snaps from the wildcat formation.
Never one to be short on praise for his top player, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has predicted a 40-yard dash in the 4.3s at the NFL Scouting Combine for Peppers, and suggested his versatility could make him the "Willie Mays of football."
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.