With the retirement of Zachary Orr at the young age of 24, which was prompted by a spinal condition discovered after an injury, the Ravens are in need of a linebacker. Jabrill Peppers is a standout linebacker from the the University of Michigan. He was one of the top defensive players in the country, and was even a finalist for the 2016 Heisman Trophy Award. Although he was listed as a linebacker for Michigan, he played everywhere on the field, even the offense and special teams. Peppers is a top prospect coming out of college this year, the question is however, is he worth drafting, and would he fit the Ravens?
Peppers is extremely versatile, meaning he can play almost anywhere on the field. He was a solid player not just on defense, but offense and special teams too. He garnered touchdowns running the ball on offense, and was an electrifying kick/punt returner on special teams. He used his ability to juke out would be tacklers while running, and is very athletic. Peppers is able to shed blocks well, especially while blitzing the quarterback. Once he gets to the ball carrier, his tackling skills are well developed. He is a big hitter, and tends to push hard on his tackles. He can also wrap up the ball carrier by the legs. To go along with his tackling ability, Peppers understands how to contain a runner coming out of the backfield, and is willing to help another defender make the tackle.
Originally, many analysts saw Peppers as a first round player, but since the end of the college football season, he has slid down and out of the first round. This is due to a few factors. First, he has no real position on defense. It is great to be able to play everywhere, but it can be confusing for teams to know where to put him if they draft him. He also is somewhat undersized at 6’1″ 205 lbs. To solve the problem of him being undersized and not knowing where to play him, some analysts have suggested playing him at safety. The problem with this, however, is that Peppers does not have much ball handling skills, as he only has one interception last season.
His Fit on the Ravens
If the Ravens do end up drafting Jabrill Peppers, it is unclear what they would do with him, and where they would play him. Peppers has a lot of potential, but is also a big gamble for the club that drafts him. The Ravens are going to probably try to add on to both their linebackers and safeties. Peppers could fit one of these roles, but it is unclear how it would pan out. Peppers could easily either be a breakout rookie next season, or one of the biggest draft busts next season. Ozzie Newsome and his scouting crew have a lot to discuss about Peppers, and hopefully they will get it right this offseason.
Overall, I give Jabrill Peppers a 4.2/5.0 prospect rating. He was a big time player for a big time team last season, and a Heisman finalist. He was one of the best linebackers in college football, and was excellent at stopping the run and wrapping up the quarterback. There are some questions that go along with him, however. He is undersized, although that is not a determining factor and is sometimes overrated. He also has no true position on defense, and lacks ball skills necessary for making plays in the NFL. As far as his position in the draft, he is a mid to late second round value player. For Peppers, I see a 50/50 shot of him being a great player or a draft bust.