Putting Peppers' stats into perspective: a comparison with Tyrann Mathieu

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on September 20th, 2016 at 12:31 AM

People have posed the question of what exactly Peppers would have to do stats-wise to be seriously considered in the Heisman race. I figured I would put his numbers up against the Honey Badger, a player who was comparable in terms of versatility on the defensive side and dynamic returning abilities. Mathieu gained considerable Heisman hype after an incredible year for a true freshman, and followed it up with an even better sophomore season, earning 34 first place votes for Heisman en route to a 5th place finish in the race.

Mathieu season stats:

Defense- 59 solo tackles, 17 assisted, 7.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 9 PBU, 2 INT, 6 FF, 5 FR, 2 FR TD.

Offense- No rushes or receptions.

Punt returns- 27 returns for 421 yards (avg. 15.6) with 2 TD.

Kick off returns- None.


Peppers season stats through 3 games:

Defense- 20 solo tackles, 8 assisted, 9.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 0 PBU, 0 INT, 1 FF, 0 FR, 0 DEF TD.

Offense- 2 rushes for 24 yards. 0 receptions.

Punt returns- 8 returns for 173 yards (avg. 21.6) with 1 TD.

Kick off returns- 2 returns for 81 yards (avg. 40.5) with 0 TD.


Some things that stands out is that Peppers is living in the backfield in his role as a hybrid LB, and he could finish with an ungodly amount of TFLs and sacks. But, in order to get into the Heisman race, he will need to make some special plays. The Honey Badger made his fame punching the ball out and getting in position to make big plays on defense. Peppers will need to get 1-2 defensive touchdowns in order to be considered. The lack of any INT is still a glaring hole in his collegiate resume, especially given that he dropped a sure pick 6 last year.

Where Peppers can make his move is on offense. He was deployed for the first time yesterday, and picked up yards with ease. If he gets 200 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards with 3 TD-- a slight improvement from last year--that would be a big boost to his resume. For comparison, Woodson had 231 receiving yards and 2 TD to go with 15 rushing yards and 1 TD.

Finally, on the kicking game, Peppers is off to an otherworldly start. If he can finish the year with Mathieu's avg return numbers, he will likely have popped off another punt return TD and be a freak of nature. If he can take a kick off return to the house, well then, we might have a real race on our hands.

Overall, this is just for fun and I'm going to enjoy watching Peppers regardless of how it all plays out, but I figured I'd add some perspective to give people a sense of what he needs to do to get into the discussion.



September 20th, 2016 at 12:46 AM ^

The kind of numbers Peppers is putting up should get him into the conversation. But to be seriously considered for the award I think he'll need to score TDs in at least one of the big games (MSU, OSU, BTCG) and probably have a "signature play" like Woodson's INT against MSU or The Catch.


September 20th, 2016 at 1:39 AM ^

The team probably needs to be in the playoff as well. Your teams success is typically at least equally important as individual stats when racing for the Heisman.

But you're right, Heisman winners typically have big game moments late in the season that pulls momentum in their favor.


September 20th, 2016 at 7:42 AM ^

Desmond had the catch against ND and the kick return against OSU.

Woodson had the incredible interception against MSU and the punt return against OSU.

Both had incredible stats on top of that but those were game changing, highlight reel material.

Michigan was also 10-1 and 11-0 in those regular seasons when voting occurs.


September 20th, 2016 at 2:16 AM ^

But the Badger played DB all season while Peppers is playing a LB hybrid Polamalu type position.

Just saying, not the greatest comparison since Pep has a lot more chances at TFLs that Mathieu did.

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September 20th, 2016 at 3:13 AM ^

Lamar Jackson of Louisville is in the right place at the right time an putting up video game numbers against elite teams.  In any other year, Jabrill would have a great chance at the Heisman.  But Jackson has a name (Action Jackson) made for Heisman Hype and he is putting up the right numbers.  

Jabrill deseves better, but if Jackson stays healthy, he is a shoo-in.

Frank Chuck

September 20th, 2016 at 5:16 AM ^

This isn't the first time a QB started off with such a hot start in September. In recent years (i.e. post-Denard era), other QBs put up huge numbers and didn't even end up at the Heisman Ceremony.

It's not necessarily how you start but how you finish. If Lousiville loses at Clemson and/or Houston, then Jackson may be relegated to a finalist. I say may because Baylor went 9-3 in the 2011 regular season (with consecutive 27+ point blowout losses at Texas A&M and at Oklahoma State) but RG3 still won the Heisman over Andrew Luck because Griffin put up huge numbers.




September 20th, 2016 at 5:50 AM ^

Great comparison. The LSU team that the honey badger played for in 2011 had a rediculous schedule and almost won the national championship. Their first 3 games included #3 Oregon and # 25 Mississippi State. They also beat #2 Bama, #3 Arkansas, #12 Georgia, #16 WVU, #17 Florida, and #19 Auburn. That's a lot of good teams to showcase your talents against. Peppers will have some chances to shine against big opponents, but if he doesn't control the game against MSU and OSU it's hard to see him getting enough hype.

I Just Blue Myself

September 20th, 2016 at 5:29 PM ^

As funny as that meme has been, I think that's actually true. If Michigan goes 10-2 with losses to MSU and OSU, it won't matter how dominant he was. Michigan needs to go at least 11-1, and he needs to have a big game and a big play in the OSU game. 

But I think he may need to pick off a few passes. TFL and sacks are nice, but those don't move the needle like a pick 6. 


September 20th, 2016 at 7:19 PM ^

I don't think Michigan just beating MSU and OSU would be enough for him to get the heisman votes. I think he'd need to be the reason that we win (interceptions, punt/kick tds, sac's, rush yards). I only say that because it's hard to convince voters that a defensive player is the most dominant player in college because they rarely touch the ball.

Edit, I think we're in agreement here, but it can't be said enough.


September 20th, 2016 at 6:53 AM ^

It'll be really difficult since he's not a QB or RB. Last defensive player to get close was Suh, who put out unbelievable numbers for a DT.

Jabrill will have to score double digit TDs to be considered, but it probably won't matter since Jackson will win it.

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September 20th, 2016 at 7:39 AM ^

The better defensive comparison is Ryan Shazier, and I'm pretty sure Peppers would have matched/surpassed Ryan's eye popping numbers if he played this position his whole college career. Peppers and Matheiu are completely different players, especially when Peppers played safety.


September 20th, 2016 at 8:17 AM ^

I agree with you. And he wasn't, despite blowing Te'o's numbers out of the water. My point was who is a Heisman candidate is not typically indicative of who's the best player. Peppers is a game changing linebacker who somehow is also good at returning kicks and punts. He should be recognized for how little sense that makes even if it doesn't translate to Heisman votes.

I wonder how good he'd be at linebacker if he played that position his whole college career, because he wasn't really a game changing safety and his trajectory at linebacker after three games makes me glad he only has 10 left.


September 20th, 2016 at 9:30 AM ^

Man, If you don't think Ryan Shazier is a freak athlete, then I don't know what to tell you. That's hilarious. On a team with Antonio Brown and Darius Heyward Bey, Shazier is the fastest Pittsburgh Steeler, right now. 

And I also said "the best defensive comparasion is Shazier" because OP compared Peppers defensively to Honey Badger, which isn't particularly close. Honey Badger covered people downfield, and forced turnovers/interceptions and was a ball hawk. HB forced 15 turnovers in two years in the secondary. That's not Peppers.

On the other hand, Shazier was a tackling machine who was always in the backfield but rarely covered anyone downfield and didn't force interceptions. In 30 games as a starter, Shazier had 45 tfls and 15 sacks. That's certainly what Peppers would/could have done with 30 starts at LB.


Bo Glue

September 20th, 2016 at 11:12 AM ^

Yes, Shazier may be a better comparison...as a defensive player specifically. But Peppers really started out at nickel; the weird part is that he's a good fit at LB, not PR. And we're not talking about positional comparisons anyway. We're talking about his chances at winning the Heisman, and which players he resembles had the best shot recently.

Mildly delusional? Probably. He has to surpass the already sky high expectations placed on him to have any shot.

ND Sux

September 20th, 2016 at 8:09 AM ^

Peppers is in NYC this December, with a great chance to win it.  You can already feel the excitement building, especially now that he's getting snaps on O.

Perkis-Size Me

September 20th, 2016 at 9:05 AM ^

Wouldn't pin your hopes on him winning. As of now, Jackson and McCaffery are the likely frontrunners.

The Heisman is biased a bit towards offensive players as they're the ones with the ball in their hands at all times, but all the same, Peppers will need several interceptions, some offensive playmaking, and a few more TD punt returns to even get in the conversation of getting to NY.

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September 20th, 2016 at 11:48 AM ^

Yeah I started doing that but I did it at like 1am and had to wake up at 6 lol. IIRC, Matthieu had 1 FR TD in his first game but otherwise no remarkable stats. His return td's came in the last 2 games of the season. He may have had a FF or two, and some PBU, but otherwise he did the bulk of his damage in the conference schedule

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September 20th, 2016 at 9:33 AM ^

The most important factor is for the team to keep winning. If the team has a special season then Peppers will have a real shot. Heisman is always more likely to go to a player on a good team. His play will take care of itself.