(Editor's Note: With less than one month until the start of the 2017 NFL Draft on April 27, the staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today's featured player is Michigan's Jabrill Peppers.)
Name: Jabrill Peppers
Honors:A consensus All-American and Heisman finalist as a junior in 2016, Peppers became the first Big Ten player ever to win three individual awards in one season: Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year and the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year.
Key Stat: There's a reason Peppers won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile college player. Listed primarily as a linebacker/defensive back at Michigan, Peppers played 15 positions for the Wolverines on defense, offense and special teams.
Where He's Projected: Few players have ignited more discussion among draft observers this year than Peppers. Generally he's considered a late first- to early second-round prospect, but his overall playmaking ability might intrigue teams enough to boost his final position on draft weekend. Peppers may be the ultimate case-by-case prospect; where he winds up will depend on which team feels he fits best in their particular scheme.
How He Helps The Cowboys: Last week at the NFL Annual Meeting, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones was asked, generally speaking, where the team must improve defensively this offseason. "Well, I think at the end of the day, the blanket stance on the defense is the No. 1 priority is get more pressure and right there with it is 1-A, make more plays on the ball, turnovers," Jones said. "We've been middle of the pack to lower in terms of those two categories and we have to improve. And that's how you win football games." Jones didn't mention any specific draft prospects, but Peppers is considered a potential first-rounder because he made winning plays for Michigan. Over his final two college seasons he had 117 tackles, four sacks, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble and an interception – despite moonlighting on offense and special teams, too. If he does wind up playing safety in the NFL, the question will be how he covers the deeper parts of the field.
Scout's Take: Shows football intelligence. Lines up all over the formation in this scheme. Plays safety, slot, outside cornerback and linebacker. Rarely lines up in the same spot. Can tell that he is a good athlete. Plays with a burst, acceleration and closing speed. Has the ability to match running backs and tight ends in coverage but not always the technique. Will take some crazy angles to the ball. Really loose player when it comes to technique. Has only one interception during his career. There is not much tightness to his pedal. Arms and legs tend to go all over the place. Works hard to get to the ball. Will fill as a safety but doesn't always show the strength to stand in there and take on the block. Has trouble when he has to deal with power. Snaps where you don't see him wrap up as a tackler. Watching him on tape it appeared that the coaches were trying to protect him. Used in ways where he wasn't exposed in coverage. Role was that of a nickel linebacker in their scheme. Love the athletic ability. Might be a better running back than defensive player?
- Bryan Broaddus