Jabrill Peppers sees himself as a safety

What is Jabrill Peppers? Is he a linebacker? Is he a safety?

Peppers is listed as a linebacker this week at the combine, but the former Michigan star will work with the linebackers on Sunday and then return to do field drills with the defensive backs on Monday.

"What do I look like?" asked the 5-foot-11, 213-pound Peppers, when asked which position he characterizes himself as. "I'm a safety."

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock probably described him the best.

"The biggest compliment I can give him is he's a football player," Mayock said in a conference call leading into the NFL Scouting Combine. "That sounds stupid, but he is. I don't think you can put a label on Jabrill Peppers. He was asked to do a bunch of different things at Michigan, and he did them at a high level."

Peppers was the 2016 Paul Hornug Award winner as the nation's most versatile player, and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Playing mostly linebacker this past season, Peppers had 66 tackles (13 for loss), three sacks and an interception. He also averaged 6.2 yards per rush with three touchdowns on 27 attempts. He returned a punt for a touchdown and averaged 14.8 yards per punt return.

"Well, when you look at Peppers, you look at what he does, wow," Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said this week. "Here's a guy that gives you some safety traits. Here's a guy that can probably come down in the box like a nickel, come down in the box like a linebacker.

"And if you ever really did need it, you can put him on the offensive side as well. He's got a lot of special teams value. So you have to really break it down to how does he fit you, and what other special traits he has to have the rest of the football team."

With players like Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals and Mark Barron of the Los Angeles Rams serving as hybrid linebacker/safeties, some believe Peppers could fill a similar role in the NFL.

But Peppers thinks of himself more in the mold of Seattle's Earl Thomas.

"The bottom line is I'm a ball player and I'm a hell of a ball player," he said. "I tend to run fast. I tend to look smooth doing whatever it is I'm asked to do. After a couple of interviews, I think these coaches pretty much know what they're going to get."

Peppers was a playmaker in Ann Arbor, and Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he needs more of those on his roster.

"I think we need more playmakers, bottom line," Quinn said. "I think we were in the bottom five in the league in interceptions, so I think that's an area that we need to improve. That's just not the corners.

"That's the linebackers, that's the safeties, that's the defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback, so I think it's the whole team defense thing that kind of helps your guys that are in the secondary in the second level of the defense be able to make plays that can change games."

Peppers said Saturday that some teams have even talked to him down here at the Combine about playing offense. There's no doubt he's a dynamic player, but he expects to make a difference in someone's secondary playing the safety position.

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