First-round picks usually aren’t traded after two productive seasons, but Jabrill Peppers sees nothing but good things in being sent to the New York Giants; a trade that brings him back to New Jersey where he starred in high school at Don Bosco Prep.
Peppers was part of the package the Giants received in their trade of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last week. In adding Peppers, along with a first and third-round pick, the Giants are in full-fledged rebuild mode.
After a solid rookie season, Peppers took a significant step forward last year with 79 tackles, a sack, an interception and five passes defended. The trade may have been a surprise but the safety is fine with his homecoming to New Jersey.
Upon finding out about the trade, he admitted that he was excited to play “in front of the home state.”
“It’s a business, so nothing really can surprise you,” Peppers said Monday in a conference call with the media. “It’s just more of a blessing in disguise and I feel as though God doesn’t make mistakes. If this is the path he wants me to walk down on, I’m going to embrace it.”
In terms of fit, it remains to be seen how and where Peppers slides into this defense. He isn’t a like-for-like replacement for Collins, arguably one of the top three safeties in the NFL.
But Peppers has off-the-charts athleticism and the ability to cover ground. He is long with good instincts over the middle. He also has the ability to contribute on special teams as a punt returner.
Peppers is a unique athlete and will bring his own skillset to this Giants team.
“They’re getting a hard worker. A guy that’s going to do whatever it takes to win,” Peppers said of coming to Big Blue. “I feel as though I haven’t even showed a third of what I can really do. So, I’m anxious just to get there and have a fresh beginning, immerse myself in the culture and tradition, learn the schemes and be the best player I can be.”
He also brings versatility, having played linebacker, safety and running back in college as well as starring as a punt returner for Michigan. He was named the Paul Hornung Award recipient in 2016 — given to the most versatile athlete in college football — as a redshirt sophomore during his final year in Ann Arbor.
Ironically, the next season’s recipient of the award was Saquon Barkley, and in 2013, Beckham took home the honor.
The pressure on Peppers will be massive to replace Collins, who was viewed as a cornerstone and foundational piece of the defense. But as a young player, Peppers is still growing and can add more in the pass defense than perhaps the player he’s viewed as replacing.
“Jabrill is a hell of a kid,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “I don’t think he feels that pressure, and we certainly aren’t going to put it on him. He is very bright, he’s young. He is coming here to be a safety, play football and help the New York Giants win games. It’s that simple.”