Jabrill Peppers

NFC Draft Visits: 49ers, Panthers, Cowboys, Redskins

Some of Wednesday’s notable pre-draft visits from the NFC:

  • Florida cornerback Teez Tabor and Michigan defensive back/linebacker Jabrill Peppers were among the 49ers’ visitors, writes Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. Neither will be in play for the 49ers’ first-round pick (even if they trade down from No. 2), but could still be on the board when the club’s second-rounder comes up at No. 34.
  • Kansas State edge rusher Jordan Willis visited the Panthers, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Willis seems like a more realistic fit for the Panthers in the second round (No. 40 overall) than in the first (No. 8). Regardless, with Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson and Mario Addison each on the wrong side of 30, Carolina could use a young pass rusher like Willis, who totaled 20 sacks from 2015-16.
  • Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey met with the Cowboys, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Humphrey may well be off the board by the time the Cowboys are on the clock at No. 28, though it’s possible he’ll drop amid unwanted comparisons to another ex-Alabama corner, recent first-round bust Dee Milliner.
  • The Redskins, owners of the 17th pick, hosted Houston edge defender Tyus Bowser, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Washington amassed the ninth-most sacks in the league last year, though nine of their 38 came from outside linebacker Trent Murphy, who will serve a four-game suspension to open the season. He’s also due to hit free agency next spring. Adding another pass rusher early in the draft this year could make sense, then. Bowser racked up 22.5 sacks during his four-year college career, including a personal-best 8.5 in 2016.

Draft Rumors: Mixon, Lattimore, Peppers

It was reportedly likely as of two weeks ago that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon wouldn’t last beyond the third round of the draft, but now there’s “palpable buzz” that his stock is dropping, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Interestingly, one league source informed Florio that Mixon will go undrafted, which runs counter to the notion that many teams Mixon has met with are willing to forgive him for his sordid past. Mixon was caught on camera punching a woman in the face in 2014, and while he has since expressed remorse, his future NFL employer will undoubtedly face a public relations backlash upon adding him.

More on the upcoming draft:

  • Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore visited the Jets on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New York holds the sixth overall pick, with which it could theoretically take Lattimore, but it’s possible concerns over his health will cause him to slide out of the top 10. Should that happen, the Jets may still end up a candidate to draft Lattimore if they succeed in trading down.
  • The Ravens hosted Michigan defender Jabrill Peppers on Tuesday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Peppers expects to serve as a safety in the pros, as do most teams with which he has spoken, but one sees the likely first- or second-rounder as a linebacker and another believes he’s capable of lining up on offense.
  • The Cowboys are in need of pass-rush help, which could come in the form of Missouri defensive end Charles Harris. The club’s attraction to Harris is no secret, reports Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram, though she notes that he might be off the board by the time Dallas is on the clock at No. 28 overall.
  • A couple of NFC West teams are eyeing Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, per Wilson (Twitter link). Melifonwu met with the 49ers on Tuesday and will visit the Seahawks on Wednesday. Speculatively, the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder could be a fit for the 49ers early in Round 2 (No. 34 overall) or the Seahawks late in the first (No. 26).

Extra Points: Ja. Peppers, Rams, Texans

Jabrill Peppers played both linebacker and cornerback at Michigan, but nearly all NFL teams view the draft-bound prospect as a safety, he told the Associated Press. Peppers is on board, saying, “I didn’t play safety, but I’m going to be a safety.” While one club informed Peppers it would use him at linebacker, another had an outside-the-box idea. “One team told me they thought I should play offense,” revealed Peppers, who did see time on that side of the ball at Michigan last season. Peppers rushed 27 times for 167 yards, caught two passes and scored three touchdowns. He also fared well in space as a punt returner, posting a Big Ten-leading 14.8-yard average on runbacks.

More from around the game:

  • Ravens college scouting director Joe Hortiz is the Rams’ top choice to take over the same position in Los Angeles, reports CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (all Twitter links). The Rams have shown interest in Hortiz in the past, notes La Canfora, who adds that Baltimore wouldn’t be able to prevent him from leaving. Los Angeles started reshuffling its scouting department when it dismissed four evaluators on April 9.
  • The Rams are also making changes on the field, with several familiar names apparently set to switch positions as the Sean McVay era begins, according to Myles Simmons of the team’s website. Contrary to a prior report, the signing of left tackle Andrew Whitworth will not force Greg Robinson to shift to guard; rather, Robinson will head to right tackle, leaving Rob Havenstein to move inside. Elsewhere, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner will play free safety and Maurice Alexander will take over at strong safety in the wake of the team’s addition of Nickell Robey-Coleman, who’s primed to handle Joyner’s old job as a slot corner. Finally, Robert Quinn is transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, though his role as a pass rusher will remain the same.
  • Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles visited the Texans on Monday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. With potential first-rounders in Bolles, Alabama’s Cam Robinson and Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk on their radar, it’s clear the Texans are strongly considering taking a tackle with the 25th pick in the draft.
  • The surgery Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster underwent on his right rotator cuff in February won’t keep him out for any portion of training camp, his agent, Malki Kawa, announced Monday (on Twitter). The soon-to-be first-rounder is “ahead of schedule,” per Kawa.

Draft Rumors: 49ers, Jets, Fins, Mixon,

The 49ers are willing to trade the second pick in the draft, which has been the case since at least February. They’ll “listen to anything,” said general manager John Lynch, who revealed that teams have shown interest in acquiring the selection (via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area). Regardless of whether they trade the choice, the 49ers won’t have top prospects like Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas or Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey in for pre-draft visits. “I think we know those guys pretty well,” stated Lynch (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). They did work out Cal quarterback Davis Webb on Tuesday, per Wagoner. Webb is gaining momentum as a potential first-rounder.

More on the draft:

  • The Jets worked out North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky on March 30, but they’ll take another look at the 22-year-old Thursday in the form of a pre-draft visit, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. There are some members of the organization who are quite bullish on Trubisky, Mehta writes. The quarterback-needy Jets, who are set to pick sixth, have also met twice with Texas Tech signal-caller Patrick Mahomes.
  • With their first-rounder, No. 30, the Steelers plan to select the best defensive back available, says Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (video link). That could be Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, whom GM Kevin Colbert “loves,” according to Kinkhabwala. Head coach Mike Tomlin said last month that the Steelers need DBs capable of playing man coverage, noting that New England quarterback Tom Brady roasted their secondary in January’s AFC championship game.
  • The Dolphins’ previously reported visit with Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton took place Wednesday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.The team also hosted Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis, who, like Charlton, is a prospective first-rounder. PFR’s Dallas Robinson currently has Miami taking Charlton at No. 22 overall.
  • Speaking of the Dolphins, they’ll meet with Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt this week, and he’ll also visit the Saints, 49ers and Broncos in the coming days, relays Jeremy Bregman of NFL.com. The brother of Texans superstar J.J. Watt may end up coming off the board in Round 1.
  • Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is “absolutely in play” for the Vikings in Round 2 (No. 48 overall), Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller told Matt Vensel, Andrew Krammer and Michael Rand of the Star Tribune. Along with Minnesota, the Saints, Bengals and Raiders have shown the most interest in Mixon, per Miller. The Raiders seem like a curious fit, though, given Mixon’s past and owner Mark Davis’ zero tolerance policy regarding domestic violence.

Draft Rumors: Webb, Njoku, Peppers, Allen

Multiple clubs have informed Cal quarterback Davis Webb they view him as a “first-round talent,” tweets Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jason Cole of Bleacher Report indicated earlier this week that Webb could be selected in the first round, and noted as many as five clubs had expressed interest in the 6’5″ signal-caller. That number has now grown to 12, per Branch, and Webb has met with the Cardinals and Steelers, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com.

Here’s more on the 2017 draft:

  • Miami tight end David Njoku visited with the Panthers, as Njoku told the Rich Eisen Show (video link) earlier this week. Njoku, who registered 43 receptions and eight touchdowns last season, is expected to be one of two first-round picks at tight end, joining Alabama’s O.J. Howard. The Buccaneers and Giants are also reportedly eyeing Njoku, who is just 20 years old.
  • The Buccaneers, Saints, and Cardinals have all conducted meetings with Michigan defender Jabrill Peppers, reports Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Debate has emerged regarding what position Peppers will play in the NFL, as though Peppers views himself as a safety, some clubs may see him as a linebacker. Per Peppers, 30 teams wants him to play safety, one wants him to play linebacker, and one outlier views Peppers as an offensive player, tweets Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com.
  • Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen says he’s only met with with the Bears thus far in the draft process, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Allen, viewed as one this year’s best defensive prospects, could see his stock fall thanks to a shoulder injury. Some scouts believe Allen could drop into the No. 12-17 range after initially being projected as a top-five pick.

Draft Rumors: Allen, Foster, Peppers, Mixon

Reuben Foster enjoyed one of the most eventful Combines without participating in much of it, being sent home after an argument with a hospital worker. The highly touted linebacker attributed the incident to a misunderstanding and will invite representatives of teams to meet with him on March 7 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., according to NFL.com (via Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk). The Crimson Tide’s pro day is March 8. Foster sent a letter to all 32 teams inviting them to meet with him then to discuss his side of the story.

Here’s more from draft-eligible talents, including one of Foster’s teammates.

  • Jonathan Allen has hovered around the top 5 of this class throughout mock draft season, but the shoulder issue that’s become known this weekend may cause the Alabama defensive tackle to drop. How far? In speaking with scouts, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report hears the Crimson Tide standout could plummet to the 12-17 range (Twitter link). Doctors discovered Allen has an arthritic left shoulder, and that’s concerned some NFL personnel. “It’s not really a problem now,” Allen said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But it might be a problem 15, 20 years down the road.” Allen only performed 21 bench press reps. That number tied for 35th among defensive linemen.
  • Jabrill Peppers does not plan to go any farther with his Combine position group, telling media in Indianapolis he views himself as a safety going into the draft. The Michigan talent performed drills as a linebacker at the Combine due to being told he must work out at his most recent college position. “What do I look like? I’m a safety,” Peppers said, via Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. “Free or strong [safety], I’m very fast, I’m stronger than the typical DB, tougher than a typical DB, seeing as I played linebacker in the Big Ten at 200 pounds. So anywhere from nickel, I can play some corner still.” Peppers, who weighed 213 pounds at the Combine, has trained as a safety primarily since Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss. The versatile defender functioned as a strong-side linebacker last season.
  • Joe Mixon is unlikely to be on the board when teams convene for Day 3 of the draft, Tom Peliserro of USA Today notes, regarding the growing league consensus on this matter. The Oklahoma running back caught on video punching a woman is viewed as a top-15 or top-20 type of talent. Pelissero notes there are other prospects in the draft teams are more concerned about than Mixon, who saw his defining collegiate moment become easier to scrutinize due to it being caught on camera. Mixon averaged more than 150 yards from scrimmage per game with the 2016 Sooners. Pelissero notes after speaking with some GMs, some teams have him off their board while others are using a wait-and-see approach to the controversial ball-carrier.
  • The University of Missouri’s string of defensive line prodigies figures to send the latest into the latter part of the first round or earlier portion of the second. Charles Harris figures to go in that range, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo notes (on Twitter), after impressing evaluators. Harris follows Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy, Markus Golden, Shane Ray and Aldon Smith as coveted pass-rushers from this program. Each of those players was a first- or second-round selection. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay views Harris as the No. 5 defensive end prospect in the draft. He recorded 16 sacks combined in the 2015 and ’16 seasons.

Draft Notes: Fournette, Cook, Peppers

Here’s the latest from the NFL combine:

  • LSU running back Leonard Fournette had a lackluster 28 1/2″ vertical leap today the fifth-worst vertical for a running back since 1999. However, moments later, he wowed scouts with a 4.5 second 40-yard-dash time. The posting was roughly the same as Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, but Fournette is 30 pounds heavier than him at 240 lbs. Speaking of Cook, his 30 1/2″ inch vertical wasn’t much better than Fournette’s.
  • Fournette had the fastest 40-time at the combine among all running backs weighing 240 lbs or more, dating back to 2003 (Twitter link via NFL Media).
  • Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers will working out with linebackers on Sunday and defensive backs on Monday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. As Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) notes, it’s an uncommon move. Some guys have worked out with both defensive linemen and linebackers, but not linebackers and defensive backs.
  • Former Texas running back D’Onta Foreman was held out of today’s Combine workout due to a small stress fracture in his foot, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. He’ll wait until UT’s Pro Day to audition for clubs. Foreman is considered to be one of the best RBs in this year’s class.

Extra Points: Cruz, Bengals, Eagles

The Giants are releasing wide receiver Victor Cruz, which will save them $7.5MM in 2017. Theoretically, they could attempt to bring back the 30-year-old at a lower cap charge next season, but there’s “no indication” they have any interest in doing that, writes Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com. Cruz spoke in the past tense about his six-year run with the Giants on Monday, saying: “I did some great things there. There are so many experiences, times and moments that I shared in that building with that team in that jersey. Those can’t be replaced or forgotten. I’m happy I have those moments to look back on.”

Cruz will ceremonially retire as a Giant someday and later end up in their Ring of Honor, opines Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. His next step, though, will be to head to the open market, where he could find a fit with the Panthers, suggests Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. There’s already a connection between Carolina and Cruz: Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was the Giants’ director of pro personnel when Big Blue signed the wideout as an undrafted free agent in 2011.

The Broncos, meanwhile, got virtually no production last season from receivers not named Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, but they haven’t had any discussions about pursuing Cruz, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link).

More from around the NFL:

  • Despite having over $43MM in cap space, the Bengals are unlikely to make any significant splashes in free agency, per Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com. Odds are greater that Cincinnati will focus on its own soon-to-be free agents – including left tackle Andrew Whitworth, guard Kevin Zeitler, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and receiver Brandon LaFell – writes Terrell, who notes that the club is also expecting to pick up plenty of help via the draft. On top of the picks the Bengals already have, the league could award them three or four compensatory selections this year as a result of the losses they incurred in free agency last offseason.
  • The Eagles are reportedly open to trading linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and it’s a “safe bet” they’ll move him if they’re able to acquire help at receiver, running back or cornerback in return, relays Tim McManus of ESPN.com.
  • Jabrill Peppers is unlikely to be a first-round pick, Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press opines. Peppers’ versatility is an asset, but he doesn’t clearly fit any one position either. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has called the Michigan star “a polarizing prospect” and a “tweener,” although he still has him going in the first round in his mock draft. Falling out of the first round could be good for Peppers, Monarrez argues, because it would put less pressure on him as he works to figure out his best role in the NFL.
  • Falcons defensive pass game coordinator Jerome Henderson was under consideration to become the 49ers’ defensive coordinator before they tabbed Robert Saleh for the role on Monday. Now that he’s not going to San Francisco, Henderson will stay in the same position in Atlanta, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.
  • The Seahawks are parting with assistant linebackers coach Lofa Tatupu, who spent the previous two years on Pete Carroll‘s staff, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Tatupu is better known for his on-field work in Seattle, where he played from 2005-10 and earned three Pro Bowl nods.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Miller’s Latest: Bears, M. Williams, Peppers

As our list of important 2017 NFL offseason dates shows, NCAA underclassmen have until tomorrow to announce their intent to enter this year’s draft. One first-round prospect, Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham, did just that yesterday, and a few more names could trickle in before Monday’s deadline. The draft itself is still months away, but Matt Miller of Bleacher Report is in touch with scouts and has presented the latest on several collegiate players in his latest notebook (which, as always, is worth a full read).

Here’s the latest from Miller:

  • One scout tells Miller that Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has a “perfect grade” on his board. Foster, who posted 115 tackles and five sacks during the 2016 season, is considered the best off-ball linebacker available in this draft and should be selected in the first round.
  • Another Alabama defender, Jonathan Allen, is viewed as an even better prospect than Foster, and as one of the best edge players in the 2017 class, could go off the board in the top 10 picks. However, an AFC personnel director believes that Allen’s shoulder injuries could present a problem come draft day, and thinks that Allen may have had an additional surgery that went unreported.
  • Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams squared off against Foster, Allen, and the rest of the Crimson Tide defense when the Tigers faced Alabama in the National Championship Game, and Miller favorably compares Williams to Bengals pass-catcher A.J. Green. “Best player on the field. Period,” a scouting director said of Williams.
  • The Bears are showing strong interest in this year’s crop of quarterbacks, rival evaluators tell Miller. Chicago is expected to move on from veteran signal-caller Jay Cutler, and could look to find their quarterback of the future on Day 1 or 2. Back in November, Miller reported the Bears were researching Miami QB Brad Kaaya, who could be drafted in the Round 2 range.
  • Based on his discussions with scouts, Miller believes that Michigan S/LB Jabrill Peppers is currently overrated on media boards, potentially putting him in line for a draft day fall. Typically regarded as a first-round pick, Peppers announced last week that he would skip his final two NCAA seasons to enter the NFL.
  • At least one NFL offensive line coach believes Utah left tackle Garett Bolles is going to “shoot up” draft boards, according to Miller.

Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers To Enter NFL Draft

Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers has declared for the NFL draft, as Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated writes. Peppers, a safety and return specialist, is widely projected as a first-round prospect. Jabrill Peppers (vertical)

[RELATED: UNC QB Mitch Trubisky To Enter NFL Draft]

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Peppers said of the decision. “I’m choosing between cementing my legacy as a college player and starting my pro legacy. It’s something you dream of when you were a kid. I was torn between the two.”

Peppers’ versatility should increase his stock as the draft approaches. This year, he lined up in 15 different positions on his 933 snaps, including some plays at quarterback, tailback, and receiver. On defense, he saw time at nickelback, safety, linebacker, and cornerback. Teams looking for a swiss army knife of a player similar to the Redskins’ Su’a Cravens will be salivating over the possibilities with Peppers.

Recently, two NFL teams told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report that the Wolverine will be a top-10 pick in the spring. If he can run a sub 4.4 40-yard dash as Jim Harbaugh has predicted, he’ll be an absolute lock for the top of the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.