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2016 NFL Draft: Could Sterling Shepard be a dynamic partner for Odell Beckham?

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The Giants have had great success with smaller receivers in the past and Odell Beckham took the league by storm. Could they look at another in Sterling Shepard?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Giants essentially held the door open for Rueben Randle as he left the building, it confirmed one of two paths for them. Either they were satisfied that a Number 2 receiver was already on the roster, or that they believed would be an upgrade.

The Giants had credentialed scouts at several Oklahoma Sooners games in 2015. It had generally been assumed that they were there to watch defensive players Charles Tapper, Dominique Alexander, or Eric Striker. However, wide receiver Sterling Shepard could have piqued their interest.

Measurables

Pros

  • Lightning quick. Shepard is able to separate in a blink
  • Very reliable (and surprisingly big) hands. Only eight drops compared to 253 catches
  • Very precise route runner.
  • Explosive lower body with a 41-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump. Makes for a surprisingly large catch radius
  • Former basketball player.
  • Reportedly high work ethic and character.
  • Tracks the ball in the air well.

Cons

  • Undersized. At 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, he is much smaller than NFL teams usually prefer.
  • Stronger than you'd assume given his stature, but could struggle against bigger press corners in the NFL.
  • Doesn't have the blazing speed to take the top off a defense.

Prospect Video

Big Board Rankings

Big Blue View - 63rd

Mocking The Draft - 53rd

CBS - 67th

Draft Tek - 57th

Does He Fit With the Giants?

Sterling Shepard doesn't look like the prototypical NFL receiver, but he does look an awful lot like two of the top receivers in the game in Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown.

Like Beckham and Brown, Shepard uses his size to his advantage with quickness and precise route running. On top of that, his explosive lower body, strong hands, and basketball background let him play bigger than he lists. It's unrealistic to expect Shepard to have the kind of immediate impact that Beckham's experience in a pro-style system and rapport with Eli Manning allowed him to have, or become  as dominant as Brown. However, players with raw talent and work ethic rarely go astray.

Final Thoughts

Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, those guys are the prototype for the NFL wide receiver. Big, athletic, able to out-muscle smaller defenders and run past bigger ones. But there's another breed of receiver making waves in the League. Smaller receivers who use their routes and quickness to gain separation, who can exploit the holes in defenses, and the league's rules regarding coverage. Smaller receivers who play big, like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and Tyler Lockett are some of the most dangerous offensive players in the league, even though they might not be the most physically imposing.

That's the type of player Sterling Shepard could be. He already knows how to use his size and athleticism to his advantage. If he can continue to build and improve on his craft, Shepard stands a chance of being the next one.