The Miami Dolphins haven't had a meaningful contribution from a first round rookie defender since stud corner Vontae Davis arrived from the University of Illinois, eight long years ago, in 2009. Davis returned an interception for a touchdown in Week Four, against the Bills, and picked off a Tom Brady pass in the end zone that was intended for Randy Moss, to help secure another victory. In 2010, the Dolphins traded down and selected Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick near the end of the first round. Odrick, though, who was slated to play end in Miami's 3-4 defense that season, missed virtually his entire rookie campaign after suffering a broken foot barely a month into the season and didn't become a regular until the following year. Since the Dolphins would go on to select an offensive player in the first round in five of the next six drafts, the only other first round defender in recent years was defensive end Dion Jordan. Other than a widely publicized, much vaunted play against New England, when Jordan ran in a straight line down the field with a guy who outweighed him by about thirty pounds, he failed to do much of anything during his rookie year, or since.
After years of ignoring the defensive side of the ball in the first round of the draft more than any other NFL team, the Dolphins seem poised to finally select a defender with the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Although he is a very popular player, it is my fervent wish that that player not be Michigan's Jabrill Peppers. The term 'Jack of all trades, master of none' was surely minted with someone like Peppers in mind. I took a few minutes to watch his college highlights, and came away impressed with his abilities as a return man and not much else. Not only that, but scouts have questioned his instincts, and with just one interception and one forced fumble in 27 college games, who can blame them? In my estimation, Jabrill Peppers is one of this year's media hype creations, and I'll be surprised if he's in the starting lineup for any team on opening day in September.
The idea that a player can be a 'Swiss Army Knife' is a very popular notion, but one that largely just doesn't hold water, particularly on defense. Shifty, sure handed running backs are often seen being lined up out wide or in the slot by enterprising offensive coordinators, but defensive players lining up at multiple positions, unless they've been in the league for quite a while, is exceedingly rare. While Peppers has done some nice things in his career, he just isn't that type of player, in my opinion. As Dolphin fans, we should all know better. Remember, it was just a few short years ago, that we said the same kinds of things about the aforementioned Jordan. Going through the comment boards of some of the articles, I would read things like: "They can line him up at linebacker on first and second down, then split him out wide and have him cover a tight end or wide receiver in passing situations . . .”, etc. The National Football League is a billion-dollar business. A lot of money and people's livelihoods are riding on every single play. At any given time, there are only about 1500 men in the world who are on the active roster of an NFL team. As a professional athlete, to even get onto the field in a live game that counts in the standings, much less become a starter, you have to be better than just about anyone else on earth at performing one specific task. Being average, or even good at several isn't going to get it done, because the chain that represents your starting eleven is only as strong as its weakest link, and good QB's and offensive coordinators will find that weak link and eat that guy alive. Far more often than not, a Swiss Army Knife ends up being an expensive bottle opener, sitting on the bench much of the time.
There are at least six defensive players in this draft whom the Dolphins have a realistic shot at selecting who carry higher grades than Jabrill Peppers: DE Taco Charlton, CB Tre'Davious White, CB Gareon Conley, LB Haason Redick, S Budda Baker and LB Jarrad Davis. Heck, for as much as this column has complained over the years about the Dolphins not drafting defense, I'd gladly take offensive guard Forrest Lamp, or even raw Miami Hurricane tight end prospect David Njoku over Peppers. Why? Because both Lamp and Njoku have demonstrated the ability to do at least one thing better than almost anyone else on earth, who isn't already on an NFL team. Peppers, in my estimation, has not. The last guy who played a safety/linebacker role on NFL team was Washington State's Deone Bucannon, selected 27th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the 2014 draft. Three years and 45 games later, Bucannon has just five sacks and one interception. That just isn't first round production, folks. For as long as the Miami Dolphins have neglected the defensive side of the ball in the draft, the last thing they need to do is to expend a first round pick on a question mark. What they need at number 22 is an exclamation point. You want Jabrill Peppers on your football team? Then take him in the second or third round, because that's where he belongs.