BEREA, Ohio -- The more versatility players have on a football field, the more valuable they are to their teams, and no one knows that more than Cleveland Browns rookie defensive back Jabrill Peppers, a finalist for the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
Peppers played nearly everywhere for the University of Michigan Wolverines during the 2016 season, and that versatility led him to becoming the second first-round pick of the Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft last month.
“I was asked to do a lot when I was in college, and that's what I did,” Peppers said at Browns rookie minicamp over the weekend. “I'm a team guy, whatever I can do to help my team, that's what I'm going to do. I'm not worried about being a hybrid.
“I know what position I play. That's what the media says I am. At the end of the day, I'm a guy you can plug wherever you see fit and I'm going to give the best effort I can give, try to affect the game some way, somehow.”
In three years at Michigan, Peppers made 86 solo tackles and assisted on 33 other stops, including 18.5 for lost yardage with three sacks.
Peppers intercepted one pass and defended 10 others in 12 games for the Wolverines during the 2016 season.
Additionally, Peppers accounted for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and a combined total of 570 return yards, as well as one punt-return score last fall.
“I learned at an early age, to whom much is given, much is expected,” Peppers said. “I don't really think about it as that. I see it as they see a lot of potential in me, but as of right now, that's just it, potential. I have to still fulfill and finish developing and things like that. So I don't really see it as too much on my plate. I just see it as they think I can do a lot to help this team and they're going to throw a lot at me."
Last season, the Browns ranked near the bottom of the NFL in several statistical categories, most notably points, yards and rushing yards allowed.
On the field for the fourth-most plays in the NFL, 1,067, the Browns allowed 392.4 yards and 22.8 first downs per game, and surrendered third-down conversions on 45.1 percent of their opponents’ attempts in 2016.
Also, the Browns’ 26 sacks tied for the second fewest in the NFL last season.
And all those struggles led to the team spending their first two picks and six of their 10 choices in last month's draft on the defensive side of the football.
“I think this whole draft class can be part of that foundation,” Peppers said. “We have a great class. You don't have to go in the first round to be considered a cornerstone. I think they did a real good job at finding guys who love football, have a real passion for the game.
“When you have a group of guys like that, the energy just fills the room. I'm not really worried about myself, Myles or David, it's the whole draft class, Howard, Larry, we've got a lot of guys, Caleb, so we're just here to do what they brought us here to do, and that's help this organization win ball games, so that's what we intend to do.”
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