It’s time that we take one last look at Sterling Shepard before he begins his illustrious career as a New York Giant.
Who is Sterling Shepard? Yes, he was taken in the second round of this year’s NFL draft by the Giants. Yes, he’s started to pick up some hype in training camp. But who is he? And why should you draft him this year?
Well for starters, I’m a visual learner. I’m sure some of you are too. So let’s kick it off with a couple GIFs that pretty well sum up several of Sterling Shepard’s fantastic attributes as an NFL-ready wide receiver.
In this first GIF we take a look at Sterling’s deep game. Yes, Sterling Shepard has great (not elite) long speed. However that’s not what’s most impressive here. Sterling does what many wide receivers fail to do once they initially beat a defensive back deep. He stacks over the top of the defender giving Baker Mayfield (his QB) a wider margin for error to throw over the top. Sterling then turns his head, and rather than turning completely around to try and high point the ball, he goes for the score. He uses his body to shield the ball away from the defender, turns with just enough time to see the pylon, dives and scores. That’s some amazing technique, awareness, athleticism and control. Now, just stop and realize all of that happened in a matter of (count them) 4 seconds.
This second GIF is amazing, but it’s really just typical Sterling Shepard. It’s tight man coverage by the defensive back, but Sterling’s not having it. He uses his strong hands to avoid getting jammed off his route right away. The play starts to look like it may not go so well, as there’s only a step or so of separation. But to no one’s surprise Sterling turns his head and readies himself for the back shoulder throw, jumps up and snatches the ball aggressively. This is key, because so often wide receivers want to body catch. If he let the ball come to him on this play the defender would have had room to make a play. This is the type of catch Sterling makes routinely. Even when it’s tight coverage, Sterling’s strength, ball skills, and focus help him finish plays like this all the time.
Don’t get me wrong. Sterling isn’t a perfect wide receiver, but who is, coming out of college?
Some like to say that Sterling may already be near his ceiling because he’s so “old” and his “break out” age was too late. Stop. He’s 22.
Plus, let’s recap some hindrances to his break out as a true star for Oklahoma. As a true freshman he was competing for snaps and receptions with future NFL wide receivers Kenny Stills & Justin Brown. He still decided to grab 45 balls for 621 yards and 3 scores.
Then for his sophomore & junior seasons Sterling had to put up with quarterback play that couldn’t crack 60% accuracy in college. That’s horrible, if you weren’t aware.
However, for his senior year, Sterling was finally graced with a decent QB in Baker Mayfield. He aptly showed his appreciation by nabbing 86 catches for 1288 yards and a modest 11 touchdowns. Those numbers accounted for 32% of the teams receptions and 35% of the yards. How’s that for you “market share” truthers?
*Steps down from the soapbox. Straightens hair and adjusts shirt.*
Redraft – Okay, okay. Let’s address the elephant(s) in the room. Odell Beckham Jr. & Victor Cruz have both been known to dance in the end zone quite a bit (OBJ much more recent & frequently), but there is still hope for Shepard this year. Sterling’s been impressing in OTAs and training camp thus far. Eli, the coaches, even the writers covering the team have all spoken highly of Shepard’s NFL readiness. Shepard will be the starter opposite OBJ in two-receiver sets. If he takes advantage, look out.
Draft Stock: This may change if Sterling gets loud in the preseason, but he’s going in the 90s in most drafts. If he drops to pick 100, take him automatically.
Dynasty – Sterling Shepard’s stock has soared in recent months as people are slowly, but surely, realizing his talent and opportunity. After Victor Cruz inevitably fades here soon (or even before), Sterling will have a great opportunity to be a solid WR2 for a long time. Odell Beckham Jr. will draw coverage away from him consistently for years to come. Plus, if Giants coach, Ben McAdoo stays in charge for a while, there will be tons of receptions to go around.
Draft Stock: In start-up drafts he’s been going anywhere from pick 40 to 65 or so. If you still have your rookie draft to complete, you better hope you have a top 6 pick (at least) or you won’t be owning Sterling Shepard.