The Dallas Cowboys are entering the 2017 draft with just about the same needs as they had a year ago on the defensive side of the ball. Now having lost Morris Claiborne, Branden Carr, Barry Church and JJ Wilcox all to different teams in free agency, the secondary, in addition to an already thin defensive line, still remain huge question marks in Dallas.

The Cowboys had arguably the best draft in 2016, creating one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL with the selections of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Thankfully for them, the 2017 draft class is absolutely loaded with cornerbacks and safeties, and is highly regarded as one of the deepest classes ever at these positions.

As Cowboys nation has expressed their concern watching the secondary disappear day by day, Stephen Jones offered some hope a few days back, “But I will say before we started free agency we took a snapshot of the draft and knew that it was deep in the defensive line, deep in the secondary. We knew that was the ability to really improve ourselves there.”  So, it seems the secondary will be one of the main areas of interest this year in the early rounds for the Cowboys. Clearly, the front office believes the draft is the answer for some of the defensive issues this year.

A name that is constantly swirling around the Cowboys at pick 28 in the first round is Michigan Wolverines defensive back/linebacker Jabrill Peppers.

The 21-year-old sophomore will enter the draft as one of the bigger name brand players, and is projected by many to hear his name called in the mid to late picks during day one of the draft.

Jabrill Peppers

  • Ht/Wt: 5-11, 213
  • Hands: 9 5/8”
  • 40 dash: 4.46
  • Bench: 19 reps
  • Vertical: 35.5 inches
  • Broad: 128.0 inches
  • NFL player comparison: Tyrann Mathieu

Strengths

  • Extremely versatile. Can play slot, safety or linebacker in some sub-formations. Red zone weapon
  • Speed, fluent and quick on his feet in space
  • Downhill runner, hard hitter
  • Above average blitzer
  • Dynamic return man

Weaknesses

  • No real knack for the ball; just one interception at Michigan
  • Reaction and recognition timing
  • Rather undersized for some linebacker duties
  • Tends to just hit instead of wrap-up

Overview

Peppers is a unique hybrid player. Winning the USA today Defensive Player of the Year in high school, while playing offense and defense put him on the map early. He also won Big 10 Freshman of the year in 2015 and this past season took home conference linebacker of the year. Unfortunately, he was not able to play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, due to a hamstring injury. Peppers looks to be a playmaker on whichever defense he lands, and with some work, has the skill-set to do so.

How Peppers Fits in Dallas

Let’s be honest here, the Cowboys secondary is a mess. Peppers would provide an immediate impact on the Cowboy’s defense. Sure, Orlando Scandrick is a nice piece out there. But after missing all of 2015 due to a torn ACL, he seemed to be a step behind his old self in 2016, while also missing more time because of hamstring issues. Other than Scandrick and young corner/safety Byron Jones and Anthony Brown, who showed some good signs in his rookie season of 2016, there is really not much to work with here for Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli. Peppers would not be hard pressed to find a starting job in Dallas, especially with the departure of Barry Church. He would slot right in at strong safety, next to Byron Jones at free safety.

The Cowboys lack a true playmaker in the defensive backfield, and Peppers could be that guy that they are looking for. Rod Marinelli could fit him right to the constant nickel and dime packages with ease, and he would be able to put the versatility to use effectively. Marinelli has been a wizard over the last couple seasons at being able to get the most out of the limited talent he has on his defense. He would definitely get the most out Peppers, whether it’s in coverage, stopping the run, or at a big moment in the red zone.

Peppers would likely bring more of an edge to the secondary of the Cowboys and also allow them to get more unique in their formations and play calling. He would be a great fit, and address some of the Cowboys largest needs.

Scenario the Cowboys Draft Peppers

Since the beginning of the discussion for the 2017 draft, Peppers’ name has been coming up often. It wouldn’t be fair to say his stock has dropped significantly, but because of his name brand, many people were discussing him as a lock for a Top 20 selection in the beginning. Now that most have done their research, Peppers is now being ranked consistently in the bottom ten of the first round. Some even have him as a second-round pick.

Peppers could very well still be up for grabs for the Cowboys at 28, but someone could take a chance on him in the Top 20. It’s the NFL draft, anything can happen. One team could make a move that shakes up the entire flow of the draft. If the Cowboys are really high on him, maybe they trade up to ensure they get him. Jerry or Stephen Jones really haven’t come out and given us any hints of who they are thinking about taking, so only time will tell.

Peppers possesses the intangibles to be a game-changer for a struggling defense like the Cowboys. Selecting him at 28 overall would be a great value. Entering the draft wanting to take the best player available, selecting Jabrill Peppers may just be doing that for the Cowboys. This pick would absolutely give Cowboys nation a bit more hope on the defensive side of the ball.

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