The Cleveland Browns passed on two quarterbacks and made a trade before selecting Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers with the No. 25 overall pick.
Despite a major need for a franchise quarterback, Cleveland didn’t take Clemson’s Deshaun Watson at No. 12, instead swapping picks with Houston and acquiring the Texans’ first-round pick next year.
Peppers played multiple positions for the Wolverines. He’s projected as a safety in the NFL, filling another hole for the Browns.
As a junior in 2016, he primarily played linebacker. He finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player, and was a consensus All-American selection.
Peppers says he’s willing to play anywhere for the Browns.
“I’m open to do whatever they ask me to do,” he said. “I did some things that nobody else did. They are going to get 200 percent out of me.”
Peppers took 29 snaps at quarterback, 12 at receiver and 10 at running back last season for Michigan, something that Browns head coach Hue Jackson noticed.
“First we’re bringing him in here to play defense and play special teams,” Jackson said. “He’s one of the premier special teams players in football. He’s a tremendous punt returner and kick returner. So we’re going to make sure that he can hit the ground running doing that.
“But there’s no question, we’ll give him a chance over there on offense, too.”
Peppers tweeted early Friday morning about those who have questioned his love for the game, saying he would never fake an injury. Peppers was heavily criticized for not playing in the Orange Bowl — even Michigan fans were angry.
Speculate on what you want but my love for this game should never be questioned! Never would I fake an injury to miss a game. pic.twitter.com/MLaaqKPzMI
— JP5 (@JabrillPeppers) April 28, 2017
The biggest off-field issue with Peppers was his diluted urine sample at the NFL Scouting Combine. He repeated his agent’s statement Thursday that the sample was due to an overabundance of water to prevent cramping.
The challenge for the Browns is that now the sample places him in the drug testing program and he will be suspended for any other violation, instead of a warning as another rookie would get.
“It is certainly a factor for us,” Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said. “Jabrill understands. I think he has been accountable for it. He understands that it is something that he has to clean up as we move forward. We will spend some time with him on that when he gets here. Mostly, we are really excited to get a real exciting football player. We had gotten comfortable with the background on him to move forward with the selection.”