From what Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is hearing from NFL scouts and coaches, Jabrill Peppers will be a high draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Peppers, because of his versatility and the fact he will play safety – not linebacker like he did last year – at the next level, has thrown draft analysts, who have had wide-ranging opinions on where he will be drafted. Peppers, who played 15 positions at Michigan last fall and won the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football, could go anywhere from the late first round to early second, most analysts have said.
Harbaugh appeared Tuesday on the "Rich Eisen Show" and spoke to guest host Jay Feely, the former Michigan kicker, and said NFL teams are starting to “get” what Peppers can bring to a team. Michigan held it’s Pro Day last Saturday and all 32 NFL teams were represented.
“The pro coaches I talked to and the scouts who called and talked about Jabrill, they see it now,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve watched all the tape, they’ve combed through it this year, last year. They see how they’re going to use him. He’s going to be a safety, he’s going to be a safety that plays in the deep middle of the field. He’s going to be a safety who plays in the two-deep, but they also see how he can be a linebacker, how he can be a nickel corner, how he can be an in-the-box linebacker, how he can blitz, how he can tackle, how he can be used in the return game, both the kickoff and the punt return game.
“So it’s not even a question anymore. From the people I’ve talked to what they have said to me, they really get it and they’re continuing to do their homework on what kind of guy he is, what kind of player he is, what kind of practice players he is. I can tell you the same thing I tell them, I haven’t been around another player who brings as much energy to a practice or a game as Jabrill Peppers. The No. 1 guy I’ve ever been around in terms of bringing enthusiasm in practice, not only himself but lifting as many people as you can think of around him on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis, yearly basis. I’ve never seen anything like the guy in terms of the way he likes to practice, the way he wants to win at practice, the way he likes to compete, the satisfaction he derives from practice. I think they’re really liking to hear that. What they’re telling me, he’s going to go very high.”
There were 19 former Michigan players working out at Pro Day, the same day Michigan began spring practice. Harbaugh said the biggest payoff came from the current Wolverines watching the combine-like process.
“The cool thing about our Pro Day was the looks on the faces of the players that are currently at Michigan,” Harbaugh said. “Eyes wide open, jaws down a little bit, understanding that can be them someday. You make the point to them it didn’t happen for these 18-19 guys because they just started training for the NFL or the combine or Pro Day three or four months ago.
“They’ve been doing this for four and five years. Right now start getting yourself in the best shape possible for a starting position, contribute to the football team, so I think all things are going through their head and it’s a great example that you have when 18, 19 of your guys are looking to move onto the next level and play at the highest level. It’s a great motivator for our football team. Speaking of that, we have hungry, young guys. Imagine those same guys, I mean, they’ve been sitting behind a guy for a year or two waiting to get their chance to start and compete, heated waters are really there through two practices of University of Michigan spring practice, guys are fighting for starting jobs.”
Here are some other highlights from the interview:
Harbaugh on players he’s looking for to step up this spring: “Arguably you could say there are 10 starting jobs open on defense, but there’s returners like Mike McCray, Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary, Mo Hurst, those are all proven guys on defense. The whole secondary will be new. It’s young guys, it’s freshmen and sophomores and there’s one junior and one senior, and those guys are battling it out. Seven-on-seven drills, the teams drills are very competitive. We’ve got some really good young talent. We’ve got guys who are proven but we have young, hungry guys as well. We had a lot of reps on Sunday and Friday. Our third practice (Wednesday) will be our first one in gear, full gear. Get the armor on tomorrow, so that is always exciting. Put the pads on and the competition will rage on. The improvement will continue, if we do what we have to do, we’ll continue to get better.”
Harbaugh on the upcoming trip to Rome: “I can’t wait. As the day gets closer and closer, I’m just getting so excited about it. The idea is our whole team had an opportunity to do study abroad after spring practice is over. We’ll be in Rome and then they’re going to disperse out to 11 different countries and do two-to-three weeks of study abroad. To me, (it’s) putting the college back in college football. Also, the opportunity to go to a city where buildings are 400-450 years old, be able to go to the Vatican, see the Sistine Chapel, go to the Colosseum, see the Spanish Steps. We have coaching clinics over there for American football, we’re going to have youth clinics for American football, we’re going to visit with refugees, we’re going to take a cooking class, we’re going to an opera, of course watch the movie 'Gladiator' while we’re there, just connecting with people from a different culture and a different country and be able to learn about that. I feel our players will be ambassadors not only for the NCAA, the University of Michigan, the game of football, but also for the United States of America. The amount of levels that this is going to be a win is a lot.”