The Cleveland Browns drafted former Michigan Wolverines star Jabrill Peppers with the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Cleveland entered the night with the Nos. 1 and 12 picks in the first round, but traded No. 12 to the Houston Texans for No. 25 and a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. Peppers joins the first-overall pick, Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett, as part of a potentially improving defense.
There was some uncertainty for Peppers before the draft. The NFL reportedly found Peppers to have given a diluted urine sample during his drug test at the NFL combine, where he did drills with both the linebacker and defensive back groups. The NFL considers this the same as a failed drug test per its CBA with the players, even though Peppers did not test positive for any specific drug.
Peppers arrived at Michigan in 2014 as the No. 3-rated high school player in the country, per the 247Sports composite ratings system, and has become one of the most polarizing players in this draft. Some scouts and analysts viewed him as a sure-fire first-round pick, while others dropped him to the second round because they found him to be a ‘tweener player without a true position.
No player in college football was more versatile than Peppers, who took snaps at 15 different positions and won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player while placing fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Peppers will most likely be a safety in the NFL but he also has the ability to make an immediate impact as a punt- and kickoff-return man. He averaged 13.1 yards per punt return in his Michigan career, and 26.8 yards per kickoff return.
Because Peppers played closer to the line of scrimmage as a hybrid linebacker/safety in Michigan’s defense, there have been questions regarding his coverage abilities. While he had just 1 interception at Michigan, Peppers had 10 pass breakups, all in 2015 when he played safety.