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Jabrill Peppers should play every position on an NFL field for the Browns

Michigan’s Swiss Army knife did a lot for the Wolverines in 2016. But we’re making a case for every position.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns used the 25th pick, the one they got in a trade with the Texans, to select Jabrill Peppers, one of the most versatile players in the NFL draft. This past season at Michigan, he played 11 positions and was a Heisman finalist thanks to his phenomenal ability to do whatever was needed of him — though he’s expected to play safety at the next level.

At the combine, Peppers told reporters that while at Michigan, “My mindset was whatever I had to do I’m gonna do it to the best of my ability and try to make plays when I can. I think that’s what I did and that’s what I’m gonna continue to do.”

Peppers doesn’t expect that to change in the NFL, either.

“I intend to look smooth doing whatever it is I’m asked to do,” he said.

Since he’s up for the challenge, we’re going to pretend that Peppers could be drafted at any position on the field. So let’s see where he fits, no matter how ridiculous it might seem.

Jabrill Peppers on Offense

In college, Peppers saw limited snaps at (wildcat) quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. The offensive side of the ball arguably would draw the biggest challenges for Peppers — not necessarily at the skill positions, but rather in the trenches. I mean, offensive lineman Jabrill Peppers? But sure, why not?

Quarterback

This draft has some solid quarterback talent in it, but overall, it’s a weaker class than in past seasons. Outside of Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky, you’re rolling some serious dice. So why not roll the dice on Peppers? He’s a freak athlete who ran the wildcat a few times at Michigan — with success.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is also confident in Peppers’ abilities at quarterback. “He’s a natural at the quarterback position, as well as other positions, so there’s a theme there,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press in October.

Sure, his 5’11 stature is a “problem,” but it was also perceived as a problem for Russell Wilson when he was entering the NFL, and he’s got a Super Bowl ring now. The Browns, Texans, Broncos, Jets, and 49ers could all use some quarterback help. A bunch of mediocre quarterbacks like Ryan Mallett, Aaron Murray, and Connor Shaw have new contracts this offseason, and honestly, I’d rather give Peppers a shot than somebody like Kellen Clemens.

Running back

Peppers got a handful of carries while he was at Michigan. In his sophomore and junior seasons, he carried the ball 45 times for 239 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry with five touchdowns. If you didn’t know that Peppers’ main position wasn’t running back, he’d be able to fool you. That’s how natural he was at the position.

That’s a small sample size, but it doesn’t mean Peppers is unfamiliar with being a running back. He was a flashy high school running back, and could even split carries if he needed to. He could help continue a trend, after Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery became Packers running back Ty Montgomery.

Wide receiver

He’s also got experience at receiver, though he wasn’t quite as prolific as he was as a running back. Peppers totaled 10 receptions for just 82 yards, but with some more reps, there’s no reason Peppers couldn’t turn into a Steve Smith type.

There’s also genuine interest in teams wanting Peppers to play some receiver. At the combine, teams asked him about playing slot receiver, saying he is “very dynamic with the ball in [his] hands,” according to Peppers.

Lined up out wide, Peppers showed how dynamic he could be with this sweep.

There is premier talent at the very top of this wide receiver class, with players like Mike Williams and Corey Davis. Outside of that, though, it’s a thin year for the position. NFL teams should totally take a chance on Peppers as a receiving threat.

Who knows, he could be the next Antonio Brown. His flips could become his signature celebration, and he won’t even get fined for those.

Offensive line

So out of all the positions on the field, Peppers is the most undersized as an offensive lineman. Weighing just 213 pounds, Peppers would be significantly disadvantaged compared to other NFL offensive linemen.

But it’s more than just size, as Geoff Schwartz pointed out for SB Nation. There’s gotta be trust.

Offensive lines are also getting smaller. Sam Borden wrote in October of 2016 for the New York Times, “As a result of enhanced nutrition techniques, changing offensive styles and adjustments to football’s rules, [Joe] Berger and his brethren of undersize linemen appear to be a growing demographic in the NFL.”

Peppers can be the most undersized lineman, though. Seeing him line up for a play would be pretty funny because of the size difference. It would also be neat to watch him try to go up against somebody like Aaron Donald, even though we know the likely result.

And heck, this past season, the Seahawks started George Fant, who went from being a college basketball power forward to a starting left tackle in 20 months. Why not Peppers?

Tight End

The modern NFL tight end is more of a receiver compared to previous years, but blocking is still required here. Peppers is a strong player, and while he lacks the size that most NFL tight ends possess nowadays, why can’t he be the one to create a new wave?

Last season, the shortest tight end in the NFL was Delanie Walker, at 6’0, 248 pounds. Peppers isn’t too far off from that.

He’s proven he can catch the ball, and based on his defensive skills, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be a somewhat effective blocking tight end, right?

Jabrill Peppers on Defense

Defense is something Jabrill Peppers knows a thing or two about. He was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year and Linebacker of the Year in 2016. We know he’s going to play safety at the next level, and after his linebacking days in college, it’s clear he can be plugged in almost anywhere on defense.

Cornerback

Peppers played some corner in college, and even showed us how he’d defend former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard. The defensive backfield is undoubtedly where Peppers is most comfortable playing and has gotten the most burn.

Peppers was effective when he played nickel cornerback last season, whether it was keeping up with his man or finding whoever had the football.

Here, he found the football:

Even if it’s not his main squeeze, it certainly seems Peppers is confident with his abilities at the position.

“I can play some corner still,” Peppers said at the combine.

If Peppers were able to be an elite corner in the NFL, we’d have fun for years to come. He could follow the lead of Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, and Josh Norman and talk smack to the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones. The NFL could use more rivalries like that.

Safety

We know Peppers can play safety. It should be the position we hear when his name is ultimately called during the draft. He said as much at the combine, when he told reporters, “What do I look like? I’m a safety. I’m a safety.”

There’s not much of a case that extensively needs to be made here. Peppers should be going in the late first or early second round for his abilities at the position.

The lone interception of his college career — thanks to a tipped pass — came at the position against Ohio State:

It would be more of a surprise if Peppers doesn’t play safety as he begins his NFL career.

Linebacker

Peppers has plenty of reps at linebacker, since it was his main position last season. He told reporters at the combine, “I had to fill a void [at linebacker] this year because it was best for the team, and if I had to do it all over again I would.”

He did a good job when he was tasked with playing the position.

He’d be undersized in the NFL as a regular linebacker, but the role Peppers played for Michigan isn’t too far from the “moneybacker” position that’s becoming increasingly popular in the NFL.

Defensive line

This, along with the offensive line, would probably be the toughest for Peppers to line up and play. But we’re here to make it work.

Peppers has a much better chance at playing on the end than he would in the trenches at defensive tackle. His shiftiness and ability to get around guys would have to be his greatest asset, since he’d more than likely be outdone in strength and size. In fact, his stature and lower center of gravity might help him get around some of the bigger linemen.

The Raiders and Chargers had the largest offensive lines in the NFL last season, with linemen averaging over 6’4 and 327 pounds. His speed would certainly come in handy to get around them on the edge. Peppers may not have the size that the offensive linemen do, but he’d need every bit of that 4.46-second 40 time to try to get around them.

Jabrill Peppers on Special Teams

No matter what his true position ends up being in the NFL, an expected bonus is that he’s going to be involved on special teams.

Punt/Kick Returner

I mean...

Nothing else to see here really. The guy can return with the best of them.

Punter

Positional players have been turned into punters before (hello, Marquette King) so there’s no reason Peppers can’t line up and send out a booming punt.

The best part about Peppers punting would be that teams would be able to have an extra defender, as opposed to the punter just trying to get out of the way. There would be nothing cooler than Peppers sending off a deep punt, only to stop the returner in his tracks.

Thanks to guys like King, Pat McAfee, and Brad Wing, NFL punters are becoming a more fun breed. With McAfee’s recent retirement, Peppers can slide on in and take his place as the latest trash-talking punter.


Peppers is a very talented player who can do what is asked of him. Would we like to see him play every position on the field? Absolutely. Is it realistic? Nope.

But it’s fun to dream.