There is one prominent Big Ten name missing from ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay’s updated first-round projection: Michigan star Jabrill Peppers.
McShay released his Mock Draft 3.0 on Wednesday morning for the 2017 NFL Draft. It has six Big Ten players in the first round but only two in the top 22 selections.
It does not have Peppers.
“I just think he has a lot of developing to do,” McShay said Wednesday. “He could still be a late first-round pick. Who knows? Maybe he could go in the middle of the first round. In my opinion, he’s more of a second-round player who you get some versatility out of but you’re going to develop. He was asked to do so many things in college, and I don’t know if he’ll be for every team. It will be interesting to see where he goes.
“He’s going to have a good career. It’s just a matter of getting with the right place in the right role, and having a little time to develop. I don’t know if he’s a plug-and-play starter at a true safety position. He could be more of a sub-package player as a rookie and develop into more of an every-down player as he moves on into year two and beyond.”
Peppers was the Big Ten defensive player of the year in 2016 and won enough awards during two years as a starter with Michigan to fill a large trophy case. He was also a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season.
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown moved him to outside linebacker in 2016 after he played safety in 2015, but the Wolverines liked to move him around to try to confuse offenses as well.
“I thought he could be a Deone Bucannon for a while, but the more I study the tape he’s just not as physical and strong,” McShay said, referencing Bucannon as a college safety with similar size who has been successful as an outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals. “I don’t know that he can move inside. Now, you’re talking about a guy who has to play nickel, which is outside the box, and someone who has to hold up in coverage more in terms of deep coverage.
“I thought he struggled when he was forced to quickly turn and run, change direction. He’s fast in a straight line and he can make up some speed, but he’s really grabby and handsy. He really has to hold on to some tight ends and backs. You can get away with it in college when the ball is not in the air, but you can’t in the NFL.”
Peppers has done a little bit of everything for Michigan. He’s started at multiple positions on defense, played some running back and wildcat quarterback on offense and has been a dynamic return man on special teams.
Figuring out where to put him and how to use him could be a challenge for NFL teams.
“To be honestly, I’m struggling with his evaluation,” McShay said. “A) He’s such a good athlete. B) I know how valuable he can be in the return game. C) I honestly think the way he plays the position he could be a really good running back and there could be some value with him on the offensive side of the ball and dangerous with the ball in hands.
“D) He’s just a face-of-the-program type of guy who cares, is dedicated and (Michigan) never has a bad thing to say about him. Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown have raved about him from a football intelligence standpoint. Jim compared him to Andrew Luck, and said he had the best football intelligence or football IQ he’s been around since Luck.”
Ohio State defensive backs Marshon Lattimore (Jets) and Malik Hooker (Chargers) are at Nos. 6 and 7. A third Buckeyes defensive back, Gareon Conley, checks in at No. 29 (Packers).
Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk is 23rd (Giants). Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell is at No. 26 (Seahawks). McDowell is one of the wild cards from the conference, because there were questions about his off-field performance at the NFL combine.
That means there is only one other Big Ten player in McShay’s mock draft, and it’s not Peppers. It is his teammate, defensive end Taco Charlton, who is at No. 28 (Cowboys).
The 2017 NFL Draft will be held April 27-29 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia. The Cleveland Browns have the No. 1 pick, which is projected by most experts to be Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.
Other Big Ten players who could be in contention to be selected in the first round besides Peppers include Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt and Indiana guard Dan Feeney, who is projected as the No. 37 pick (Rams) in the most recent mock draft at WalterFootball.com.