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Giants roster preview: Can WR Sterling Shepard live up to the hype?

Rookie receiver drawing praise from teammates, coaches

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Sterling Shepard lines up against Janoris Jenkins
Sterling Shepard lines up against Janoris Jenkins
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants were excited when the were able to select wide receiver Sterling Shepard in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. They couldn't stop praising the former Oklahoma star, or being thankful that we was still on the board for them with the 40th overall selection.

Here is GM Jerry Reese after the selection:

"Just everything you want in a slot wide receiver ... an easy pick for us ... We think he's going to come in and he's NFL-ready — ready to play right now ... he's just crafty and knows how to get open in his routes. He has the quickness, the explosion in his route, the run after the catch, and the toughness to go over the middle, those kinds of things."

Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross admitted the Giants really wanted Shepard:

" ... we stack our guys and say: first round, we like this group of guys, second round we like this guy. But coming into today, this was a guy we really liked to get ... He's a senior, which is rare. You never see a top player stay for all four years. He had a nice body of work, as opposed to a junior who does one year and comes out of nowhere. This guy has done it for a few years. So when you go to Oklahoma, you always hear about Sterling Shepard - the guy who makes plays."

Head coach Ben McAdoo:

"We got a great pick tonight, Sterling Shepard, tremendous young man, high character, plays the game the right way, plays the game the way it should be played, feisty player, can separate both inside and outside, strong hands, he'll block you and we're fortunate to have him, fortunate that he was on the board when he was."

The plaudits continued throughout the spring:

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan:

"I always have critical eyes as a coach. But Sterling, in all seriousness, is a young man that has demonstrated a suddenness, an explosiveness, an ability to make contested catches, to separate from defenders, and something else that's jumped out is we've thrown an awful lot at him and as we've gone through the later OTAs and through the minicamp we're giving him more repetitions with Eli and holding him to a high standard. And the thing is, he's a rookie, he's making mistakes, but he doesn't make a lot of the same mistakes. He tends to be a quick study, and so I think that I'm excited where he's headed and glad that he's here."

Victor Cruz "absolutely" sees similarities between himself and Shepard:

"He's a good route runner, he's strong at the point of attack, at the point of the catch, and he's going to be a good player for us."

Odell Beckham:

"He's going to be a phenomenal player,. He can run routes, he can catch, he can pretty much do it all. So I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him develop."

Ben McAdoo:

"The thing about Sterling is he will make a mistake, as a lot of young guys do and a lot of veterans do, but he doesn't seem like the guy that is going to repeat that mistake. So once he makes a mistake, he will fix it, he will move on, he will learn from it and he is continuing to pick things up and he is doing a nice job right now for us."

Dwayne Harris:

"He's a good young guy. Got talent. I think everybody knows he's got talent, everybody's seen what he did in college," Harris said. "That really doesn't mean anything until you get to the NFL and you play your first NFL game and you're productive. He has great upside. He's smart kid.

"They put him at the hardest position you have to learn, which is playing in the slot. Once he understands that position the offense comes so much easier."

So, what should the expectations for Shepard be as his rookie season approaches? Let's take a closer look as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

2015 Season in Review

Shepard caught 86 passes in 118 targets (72.9 percent). He accumulated 1,288 receiving yards, 15.0 yards per catch. Per Pro Football Focus, 483 of those yards came after the catch, an average of 5.6 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns. Per PFF, 1,015 of his receiving yards came from the slot.

Probably the only thing that kept him from being drafted earlier is his stature at just 5-foot-10, 194 pounds.

"You like 6-5, 200 pounds and run a 4.4 and all that, but this guy overcomes his lack of height with his other skills," Ross said. "He's got a 41-inch vertical. He's competitive to the ball. His catch radius is bigger - he plays bigger than his actual size. His catch radius is where he can go up and get the ball. So short receivers who play small are our concern. Short receivers who play big are not a concern."

2016 Season Outlook

Shepard seems destined to play nearly all the time when the Giants are in "11" personnel with three wide receivers. Per PFF, that is a formation the Giants used 69.65 percent of the time last season. Only the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles used it more. So, the rookie wide receiver figures to see lots of action.

Under McAdoo, the Giants have usually moved receivers around, not usually designating one guy as a full-time slot receiver. If Victor Cruz is healthy that will impact both the way the Giants align their receivers and the number of targets available for Shepard, Harris, the tight ends and the running backs.

CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler believes Shepard can succeed inside or outside, though the slot may be his best spot. Here is part of what Brugler wrote in his 2016 NFL Draft Guide:

Shepard has electric feet and looks like an artist with the ball in his hands, creating something impressive. His lack of size and strength will limit him in some areas, but he has above average body control and route savvy, using tempo and multiple gears to get open. Despite his limitations, Shepard is a very natural pass-catcher with the skills to be a YAC monster - can play inside or outside in the NFL, but ideally suited for the slot.

Let's set the over/under for Shepard at 60 catches, that's more than Hakeem Nicks (47) caught as a rookie, but less than Cruz (82) and Beckham (91) caught in their first full seasons. Cruz played three games in 2010 without a catch, but for this we are looking at his 2011 season.

Vote in the poll and let us know whether you would take the over or the under.