The Oakland Raiders need help on defense. Jabrill Peppers is considered one of the most exciting draft prospects in this draft. On the surface, that sounds like a match made in happen. Peppers, a versatile defensive back, is coming from the same university that produced Charles Woodson, a versatile defensive back and a Raider legend. So should the Raiders draft him?
The Oakland Raiders Shouldn’t Draft Jabrill Peppers
Who is Jabrill Peppers? Despite playing linebacker for Michigan, Peppers will likely play safety in the NFL. At 5’11, 213 pounds, Peppers is too small to play linebacker in the pros, and with his 4.46 40 yard dash, people are drooling over the possibilities. He’s been compared to everyone from Tyrann Mathieu to Troy Polamalu. The Raiders could use a player like that, right? Maybe not.
First and foremost, there’s no promise that Jabrill Peppers will even be available when the Raiders pick at 24. Peppers was one of college football’s most exciting prospects, and there’s a very good chance that another team decides they want him before the Raiders ever have a chance.
Frankly, the Oakland Raiders have bigger needs. It’s true that they need a safety to put with Karl Joseph, but this is a deep draft for defensive backs. 13 of the top 50 prospects are defensive backs, more than any other position. The Raiders can get a quality safety prospect in the second or third round.
With Oakland’s inactivity in free agency, they can’t really afford to miss in the first round. Currently, Tyrell Adams and Ben Heeney are Oakland’s inside linebackers. This is unacceptable. If they can’t sign someone like Zach Brown, they’ll need to draft a linebacker in the first round.
Even if they do manage to get the linebackers set up before the season starts, defensive line is also a need. Dan Williams has under-performed, and the Silver and Black lost Stacy McGee this off-season. The Oakland Raiders still have Reggie Nelson under contract, and the front seven is more important than a project player like Peppers.
There’s no question that Jabrill Peppers has plenty of potential. Nor is there any question that he’s a phenomenal athlete. However, that’s all that’s known for sure. At Michigan, he spent time playing corner, safety, and inside linebacker. He played well enough at each position, but he didn’t really dominate at any of them.
The most troubling thing about Peppers is that he’s supposed to be a safety worthy of a first round pick, and he had one interception in college. That’s right, he only had one interception. Added to that, he never forced a fumble either. Peppers looks like he may have just been a system player for the Wolverines, and you have to think that if he was elite at one position, they would’ve kept him there.
Jabrill Peppers could end up being an explosive, dynamic, excellent football player. In the right defense, he might even become the Charles Woodson clone that people are pretending he is. But it’s more likely that he never really develops and becomes a bit of a bust.
The Ken Norton Jr. Effect
One thing that fans of the Peppers-to-Oakland movement haven’t thought about is this. Ken Norton Jr. is not a good defensive coordinator. He couldn’t figure out how to use the likes of Sean Smith or Reggie Nelson, and he seemed to want to run some kind of relaxed Tampa 2.
Since Norton almost sabotaged the Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack‘s season, what makes you think he could develop a raw athlete like Peppers? He can’t even figure out established NFL stars, let alone raw projects.