The ISD Film Room welcomes in one of the hottest recruits in the country in Paramus, N.J. product Jabrill Peppers. In high school the 2014 prospect plays every skilled position on offense and safety and cornerback on defense. He is being recruited as a defensive player on the next level with most colleges, including Notre Dame, looking at him as a corner. Peppers is a consensus five-star player with Rivals, 24/7 Sports, and Scout. Rivals has him rated as the #2 recruit overall regardless of position while 24/7 Sports has him as the #1 rated athlete in the country. Scout has him ranked as the #4 cornerback in the nation.
The good news? Peppers likes Notre Dame, but the Irish will have to contend with 22 other schools including power programs such as Alabama, Stanford, LSU, USC, Florida, and Michigan. He has not been to South Bend yet, but with Notre Dame listed as one of his top choices it wouldn’t be a surprise if he made it to campus this summer.
The Paramus Catholic High School star is one of those kids who you look at and think with all the athletic ability he has it would be nice, but not necessary, if he had some size. Well, look what we have here as he’s listed between 6-foot and 6-foot-1 and right in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. He looks like he was born to be in football pads and he really fills out his uniform nicely. His size is really helpful when he plays press coverage or filling against the run. He’s certainly not just a fast player with moves who can’t take or deliver a hit. His size fits the mentality he plays with and when that’s supported by his athletic ability it’s easy to see why he’s so sought after by many schools.
Peppers could get taller and thicker – I’m not saying he won’t or he needs to, it’s just not an essential part of his makeup that needs to happen for him to be a star on the next level. With his current measurements he can handle anything that comes his way on the football field, plus a whole lot more.
This is what makes him who is as a player. He’s obviously skilled as a football player per say, but when an average player makes a cut or spins, it doesn’t look anything like when this kid does it. He reminds me of racehorse – power, grace, and speed.
Peppers’ 40-yard dash time has been reported to be anywhere from the high 4.3’s to the low 4.4’s. Watching him on film I would feel safe believing that either number is true. The kid can flat out fly and whether he’s on offense or defense, it’s evident in basically everything he does. He runs away from people in an instant and fills an alley in the blink of an eye. Combine his speed with his obvious desire to be physical and there’s a lot of power generated in his running and hitting ability.
His elusiveness comes in many shapes and sizes and is aided by his tremendous balance. His jump cuts are as clean, quick, and explosive as you’re going to see, especially from a high school player. He can move laterally on a dime and not just one slide, mind you, but he can string together two or even three in a row. He’s able to get himself out of a number of tight places due to his quickness and when he finds a crease he explodes up the field toward daylight. We haven’t even touched on his spin moves, which are well-timed and leaves his opponents wondering what just happened.
Watching Peppers as a cornerback you can see his footwork is terrific and he’s able to maneuver around the field easily. His backpedal is smooth and when he flips his hips to turn and run it becomes very difficult for anyone to get a step on him. If he’s in his backpedal and he needs to turn into a run stopper, his toe-plant is quick and the transition to a full sprint is effortless. Essentially what he ends up being is a safety in terms of his physical style of play, but a blanket coverage cornerback with his athletic ability. In other words, he’s every defensive coordinator’s dream.
The first thing I noticed with him in terms of technique was his tackling skills. He’s a reliable open field tackler who tracks the ball carrier and attacks with speed and confidence. Whether he’s running guys down from the side or attacking them head on he does a great job of wrapping up around the legs and making sure the ball carrier is on the ground. He may lose his footing once in a while, but the fact that he wraps up so well makes up for any time he forgets to bring his legs.
Having a player with Peppers’ athletic ability and offensive ball skills makes him a threat to make a play on the ball or possibly an interception every time a pass is thrown in his direction. Some players are on defense for a reason – their offensive talents wouldn’t make for a reliable receiver or even running back. But with Peppers you get a player who is going to be a split-second faster than most corners when he breaks on the ball, which gives him the opportunity to make use of his offensive skills and not just knock the ball to the ground. He also seems to be able to read what the receiver is doing very efficiently and this could be a direct result of his experience as an offensive player.
Even though he’s going to play defense in college there’s still a way to get the ball into his hands to make plays – special teams. As you can imagine his kick and punt returning ability would be a tremendous weapon for whoever gets him on campus. If given a little space on kickoff return or even if he seems bottled up on punt return there’s no telling how quickly he can change the momentum of a game.
You don’t have to be a college scout to figure out Peppers is a special player. He can do just about anything well on a football field – play quarterback, running back, receiver, cornerback – you name it - his speed and athletic ability will make him a force to be reckoned with. What I love about him is he doesn’t hide behind his athleticism and he plays tough and physical with a real passion for the game. He would be a huge get for the Irish and would challenge even the most seasoned defensive back or returner for playing time right out of the gate.
Size: 85 (great bulk for a corner at 200 – may get to 6-foot-2)
Strength: 85 (breaks tackles as a back, can lay the wood as a defender – plays tough)
Speed: 92 (anyone who breaks the 4.4 mark is going to help your team – a lot)
Athletic Skills: 95 (off the charts in quickness, balance, agility and lateral movement)
Technique: 90 (plays an aggressive style of corner with the makeup speed to recover)
Versatility: 95(put him at any skilled position on either side of the ball and he will succeed)
Upside: 5 (someone will find somewhere for him to play as a true freshman)
Overall Grade: 5
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
OVERALL/UPSIDE GRADE KEY
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is not going to bring in anyone with a one!