As expected, Michigan star Jabrill Peppers declares for NFL draft

As expected, Michigan star Jabrill Peppers is leaving school early for the NFL.

Peppers, a Heisman Trophy finalist, revealed the news to Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, saying the decision to leave Michigan was “one of the hardest things” he’s ever had to do.

“I’m choosing between cementing my legacy as a college player and starting my pro legacy. It’s something you dream of when you were a kid. I was torn between the two,” Peppers told SI.

Peppers, who said he reached his decision over the weekend, lined up all over the field — on both sides of the ball — for the Wolverines. Peppers mainly played outside linebacker this year at Michigan, but can also play defensive back and is an explosive kick returner.

Peppers told SI he is anxious to answer any questions NFL teams may have about his best positional fit:

Peppers said he welcomes questions from NFL franchises and understands how much teams will be investing him. He said his position switch last season inhibited him from working in pass coverage as much as he’d have liked to. He took “full responsibility” for not “putting forth my best coverage” on tape this season. He said that he flashed much better coverage skills during his redshirt freshman season when he worked primarily as a defensive back. He looks forward to refining that part of his game.

“All the questions will be answered,” he said. “And they’re good questions. I think I’ll be able to show that I can play one position well when I focus all my time and attention to it. I’m really excited to focus on my back pedal, flipping the hips and my coverage. I’m going to really hone in on that and iron out my weaknesses. I know my weaknesses and I know what I’m good at and need to improve on.”

Jabrill Peppers played 933 snaps at 15 different positions this season. (Getty)

Peppers had 72 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four sacks and an interception in 12 games this season. He missed the Orange Bowl against Florida State after tweaking his hamstring in practice during the days leading up to the game, which UM lost 33-32 to Florida State.

Peppers arrived at Michigan in 2014 as a five-star recruit and the No. 3 overall prospect in the class, according to He dealt with a variety of injuries as a true freshman and was limited to just five games that season. He broke out in 2015 as a defensive back, starting all 12 games and finishing with 45 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.

Peppers made an impact on offense, too, mainly as a wildcat quarterback. For his career, Peppers finished with 239 yards and five rushing touchdowns on 45 carries. He also had 10 catches for 82 yards. As a punt returner, he averaged 13.1 yards and scored this season against Colorado.

In Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm’s most recent mock draft, Peppers went No. 29 overall (much lower than most mock drafts) to the Atlanta Falcons. Edholm writes:

Peppers has been hyped up as an elite prospect since high school, and he’s populated a lot of mock drafts far higher than this spot. But we fear that many NFL teams won’t have a crystal-clear idea of where to play Peppers, who has elite athleticism and coverage ability but might have to be schemed into a role properly. (Similar to Myles Jack a year ago, only without the knee questions.) We think Dan Quinn will find a creative way to fit Peppers into the lineup if he were to fall here.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare is Jan. 16.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!