Jabrill Peppers

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.

Extra Points: Gronk, Cowboys, Draft, Lions

The Patriots and the family of Rob Gronkowski confirmed in a statement Thursday that the tight end will undergo back surgery Friday. The hope earlier Thursday was that Gronkowski would return during the playoffs, but that’s now in doubt. “We do not expect that he will be able to play for the remainder of the 2016 season, but will await the results of tomorrow’s surgery before making a final determination,” said the two parties (Twitter link).

More from around the NFL:

  • The Cowboys expect second-year guard La’el Collins back in late December or in time for the playoffs, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Collins has been on injured reserve since tearing a ligament in his right big toe in Week 3. Replacement Ronald Leary has been excellent as a fill-in, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 16th out of 80 qualifying guards this year.
  • If Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers goes the expected route and enters next year’s draft, he’ll be a top-10 pick, two NFL teams told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (video link). Peppers would likely line up at safety in the pros, says Miller, who likens his playing style to that of Giants star Landon Collins.
  • Both Missouri junior defensive end Charles Harris and Akron junior wide receiver Jerome Lane Jr. will enter the draft (links via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com and Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk). Harris, who has amassed 30.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks since 2015, has a first-round projection from NFLDraftScout.com. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Lane is a former linebacker who registered 62 catches, 1,018 yards and six touchdowns in 2016.
  • The NFL is reportedly progressing toward introducing a developmental league, but Saints head coach Sean Payton is against the idea. “I’m not in favor of the developmental league. I think you’re going to see an increased number of practice squad players,” he told Nick Underhill of The Advocate (Twitter link).
  • The Lions worked out linebacker Myke Tavarres on Thursday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The undrafted free agent from Incarnate Word has been out of work since failing to make the Eagles’ final roster Sept. 3.

Zach Links contributed to this post.