By: Steve Tichenor
The boom or bust question surrounding Jersey native Jabrill Peppers has stirred up some controversy for the first round selection of the Cleveland Browns in this years NFL draft.
I say BOOM! His performance at the combine was exceptional, as he firmly established himself as an elite athlete among the 2017 talent in the draft. He’s a banger who’s not afraid to come up and make a hit. He has the versatility to play both sides of the ball if the Browns plan to be that ambitious, and he has the potential to be an exceptional return man in the league. Peppers offers options, which can make certain organizations nervous. What are they getting?
His detractors have legitimate points. He is too small to play linebacker at the next level which he played quite a bit at Michigan, and he doesn’t have the experience at safety to step in right away. Many feel he’s a tweener and that makes it challenging to place him on the field. Oh, and there’s that failed drug test at the combine as well.
So let’s make some sense of this. He’s clearly an explosive athlete. True, he won’t be a linebacker and everyone knows that. But he can absolutely develop into a better than average safety in the league once he focuses solely on the position. His coverage abilities will improve with experience. I wouldn’t put much into the one interception while at Michigan. There aren’t as many opportunities at linebacker. Peppers showed at the combine he can catch the ball. He’ll get to the ball at the safety position. I also think he will be an excellent return man at the next level and he can give the Browns’ offense a wrinkle by lining up on the other side of the ball in certain situations. With all the possibilities from this exceptional athlete, something is going to work.
As for the failed drug test. It may not amount to much. He tested positive for a diluted sample, which means he drank an excessive amount of water. He said he was sick when he arrived at the combine and it was necessary. That explanation seems more plausible than he was trying to mask something. It is a cause for some concern because he does have to enter the NFL’s drug program, but he’ll get off in 180 days if there are no other infractions.
Now, will the Browns organization know what to do with him? Hey, they drafted him, there must be a plan. Head coach Hue Jackson had a depleted roster last year and struggled. He’s still working to get his feet under him in Cleveland. He is known to have a sharp offensive mind, and I’m sure he was very much behind the decision to take Peppers. Could he be making plans to put Peppers into the offensive playbook? Stay tuned.
With all the potential that Peppers offers I thought the Browns made the right move. I was surprised the Raiders didn’t take him at #24. While their pick, Ohio State CB Gareon Conley, was a bit of a gamble because of possible legal issues, GM Reggie McKenzie likely saw Peppers as an even bigger risk. This may not have been a conservative pick but it will not be another Johnny Football bust in Cleveland. Peppers will deliver for the Browns, I’d bet on it.
photos: mlive.com, yahoo.com