In 2015, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon converted from safety to a linebacker/safety hybrid position and it resulted in him becoming one of the most useful defensive players in the league. Copycats were soon to follow — Mark Barron of the Los Angeles Rams played the “moneybacker” position this season — and now Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers seems to be headed down that path.
Peppers will work out with linebackers on Sunday and defensive backs on Monday at the NFL Combine, reports Adam Schefter.
Don't see many, if any, players doing something like this: Michigan's Jabril Peppers is working out with LBs on Sunday and DBs on Monday.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 3, 2017
If Peppers turns out to be next in the growing line of shapeshifting, versatile defensive backs, it will be great for the league. We’re early on in the development of this position — so much so that there isn’t even an official name for it — but it’s proven fruitful for teams to make use of it already.
The hard-hitting, run-stopping strong safety that was being phased out now has a home, as does the tweener who could never fit at a traditional position. It’s a description Peppers fits. Five years ago, teams would have been scared to go near Peppers. Now, he’s a potential first rounder and could even go in the top-15 if the right team falls in love with his game.
In a league that has struggled to embrace analytics and modern ways of thinking about sports, it’s nice to see a bit of progress once in a while.