Over the next two weeks, we're breaking down the Browns' 2017 NFL Draft class — from Myles Garrett to Matthew Dayes — how they performed this past spring, and how they might contribute next fall. *
Before the Browns drafted him with the 25th overall pick in April, Jabrill Peppers was described as the "ultimate Swiss Army knife" by NFL.com's Lance Zierlein.
That's because the former Michigan star did it all in three seasons in Ann Arbor. Peppers — one of Cleveland's three first-round Draft picks — played linebacker, safety, kick/punt returner and some running back at Michigan and earned the Paul Hornung Award, given to college football's most versatile player.
In the process, Peppers -- one of the most dynamic prospects in this year's Draft class -- played a pivotal role in helping the Wolverines and their storied program return to prominence under head coach Jim Harbaugh following almost a decade of disappointment seasons. Now, he'll have a chance to be part of a young group in Cleveland trying to do something similar.
How was his spring?
Peppers wasted no time in making his presence known out on the practice field. At rookie minicamp in May, he was all over the field and so particularly vocal that head coach Hue Jackson described him as an "energy bunny."
"Oh man," Jackson said with a wide smile. "He's a football player. I like Jabrill. What you saw is why we put him on the team."
"He likes playing the game. He likes to be around the football. He likes to be in the mix of it all," he continued. "Those are the kind of guys that we put on this team, and I'm excited about that."
By the end of offseason workouts, Peppers took reps at strong safety with the second- and third-team defense in OTAs and mandatory veteran minicamp. He'll have a chance to earn a first-team job come training camp later this month, but he and every player on the Browns' roster will have to earn their spot regardless of how they got to Cleveland.
To be sure, Peppers impressed the coaching staff, including assistant defensive backs coach Jerod Kruse, who works extensively with the team's safeties. Kruse spoke highly of Peppers and a "natural ability" to track things in space.
"If it involves a ball in everything he's done growing up in his life, he's been good at it. You name it, from rugby to soccer to baseball to football to basketball," Kruse said. "The kid has excelled at everything he's ever done. He just has naturally instinctive ability to understand space and movement."
The Cleveland Browns draft Jabrill Peppers at No. 25 in the 2017 NFL Draft.
They said it:**
"You can't really worry about things too far ahead. I have to come out here and prove myself today, prove myself tomorrow and prove myself throughout the weeks to come. I am definitely going to make my case, but I am just going through the due process. I am about the team. I am a competitor. At the end of the day, they want the best 11 guys out on the field. If I am one of them, I am one of them. If not, I am not. I can contribute to the team in other ways."
— Peppers on finding his niche on the Browns roster
What should we expect next fall?
Peppers will have to earn his spot on the depth chart, but the hope is that he — much like defensive end Myles Garrett (who we covered in Monday's Rookie Reflection) — will develop into a playmaker for years to come. While Jackson and the coaching staff say Peppers could wear multiple hats next fall, they also be careful not to overwhelm the rookie with too much, too soon.
As such, Peppers will first and foremost focus on playing safety alongside the likes of Calvin Pryor III, Derrick Kindred, Ed Reynolds II and Ibraheim Campbell. And under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Cleveland will try to get the most out of Peppers' wide-ranging skillset.
But make no doubt he'll do whatever the Browns need him to do next fall. "I was asked to do a lot when I was in college, and that's what I did. I'm a team guy. Whatever I can do to help my team win, that is what I am going to do," Peppers said.
"I'm not worried about being a 'hybrid.' I know what position I play — (hybrid) is what the media says I am – but at the end of the day, I'm just a guy who you can plug wherever you see fit and I am going to give the best effort I can give and try to affect the game someway, somehow."