Following a 2016 season that earned him Heisman Trophy consideration, Michigan Wolverines defender Jabrill Peppers announced his entry into the 2017 NFL draft Tuesday.
Peppers revealed his choice in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel: "It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I'm choosing between cementing my legacy as a college player and starting my pro legacy. It's something you dream of when you were a kid. I was torn between the two."
Peppers was a do-everything player for the Wolverines. On defense, he saw action at both safety and linebacker, while on offense, he lined up at running back and wide receiver and provided a dynamic presence in the return game.
All told, Peppers contributed 71 total tackles and 3.5 sacks as well as 167 yards of offense on the ground, three rushing touchdowns and one punt return touchdown.
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That came on the heels of a sophomore campaign in 2015 that saw him register 45 tackles, 10 passes defended, 151 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh gave the versatile New Jersey native every opportunity to show off his elite athleticism on both sides of the ball, and it resulted in his becoming one of the most intriguing draft prospects in recent memory.
When asked about Peppers' draft stock in November, an anonymous NFC executive said the following, according to Mark Eckel of NJ Advance Media:
He's a top-five pick in my mind. He's unbelievable. He's the most versatile player I've ever scouted. He does it all for (Michigan). I think at our level, he's a safety, he reminds me of (former Pittsburgh Steelers safety) Troy Polamalu. I don't think I'd use him on offense. He could be a good return man for you, though.
What he is, is just a phenomenal athlete. But he's more than that, because he's tough and he's smart, too.
With glowing endorsements like that and an impressive collegiate resume, Peppers had little incentive to return to school.
Assuming he tests well at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which seems like a given considering his raw ability, he has the makings of a top-five or top-10 selection.
Perhaps the only question mark surrounding him is how to best utilize his talents at the NFL level. Regardless of where he plays, though, he seems likely to produce.
The Arizona Cardinals are a good model to follow when it comes to using multifaceted defensive backs, as they play Tyrann Mathieu at safety and slot corner, and they moved Deone Bucannon from safety to linebacker.
Peppers has added draft value because of his ability to create matchup advantages on defense, and after watching him do that with regularity in college, NFL teams figure to position themselves to nab him with an early pick in April.
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