ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It’s official: Jabrill Peppers will play in the NFL in the fall.
Peppers announced on Tuesday that he will forgo his final two years of eligibility at Michigan, and declared his intentions to enter the NFL draft.
— JP5 (@JabrillPeppers) January 10, 2017
Peppers is a redshirt sophomore but graduated from Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High School in 2014. Players who are three seasons out of high school are eligible to enter the NFL draft.
Peppers’ announcement came a week after a Forbes.com report that he had decided to turn pro and sign with CAA. Peppers refuted the report and said that he would take the time necessary to decide on his future, whether that was at Michigan or in the NFL.
Draft-eligible underclassmen have until Jan. 16 to declare their intentions. Now, a team that is losing ample talent to graduation and to the NFL will have one more hole to fill.
Michigan will also lose Peppers’ versatile legacy. Peppers is a once-in-a generation player, but one who has accomplished everything he can accomplish at Michigan – save for playing in a bowl game, and save for winning a national championship.
Peppers leaves as one of Michigan’s most decorated players in the last 20 years. If he stayed, he had a certain legacy to live up to again, and the responsibility of leading a team that will graduate the bulk of its starters.
And seeing Jake Butt sustain a knee injury — while Peppers worked through his own injury — may have raised the question: Did Peppers want to take that risk by returning for a fourth year?
Here’s a look at what Peppers accomplished at Michigan:
Peppers was selected as one of the five finalists for the Heisman Trophy, given annually to the top player in college football. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting with 208 votes.
Peppers missed all but three games of his freshman season in 2014 with a knee injury, and registered one punt return for six yards and eight tackles.
As a redshirt freshman safety in 2015, Peppers finished sixth on the team in tackles (45) but second on the team in pass breakups (10), behind All-America cornerback Jourdan Lewis (20). (Peppers’ statistics were through 12 games; Peppers sat out the Citrus Bowl, a 41-7 win against Florida, because of a hand injury.)
Playing in a hybrid pass-rush role at linebacker this season, Peppers had 72 tackles, four sacks and eight quarterback hurries at linebacker. On special teams, he averaged 26 yards on 10 kickoff returns and 14.8 yards on 21 punt returns. On offense, he has 167 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, and two catches for three yards.
With Peppers going to the pros, Michigan loses one of its most versatile players; Peppers was a standout on defense, was a solid contributor on special teams and even got touches on offense.
There are few players like Peppers; the last at Michigan who was as versatile was Charles Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner. Woodson went on to have an 18-year NFL career and is now an NFL analyst with ESPN.