As our series on 2016 wide receiver prospects concludes, we look at Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard.
With two Big 12 receivers already been looked at so far, we conclude with the third one from the most pass happy conference in the country. NFL.com graded Shepard at 5.9, tied for fifth among receivers. He trailed Big 12 counterparts Josh Doctson (TCU) and Corey Coleman (Baylor) as well as Will Fuller from Notre Dame and Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss.
Shepard was named Second Team All-Big 12 in 2014 with 51 catches for 970 yards and five touchdowns. Last season he went up to Second Team All-America with 86 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.
When observing Shepard, a few things stand out.
He doesn’t have great size at 5’10” and 195 pounds, but he is very agile and quick in the open field. He isn’t afraid to go over the middle and can make catches in traffic despite his size. He breaks a lot of tackles as well because he’s so elusive. He also can be used on end arounds and out of the backfield. He’s also not afraid to take a hit, and showed that he can hold onto the ball after taking a hit. He can line up in the slot or on the outside and move the chains.
He’s drawing great reactions from scouts.
"“I played against his daddy and he was really talented, but Sterling picked up where his dad left off and then took it way further. He’s a great person and leader too. He’s going to be a star in the pros.” – AFC area scout"
Now, I thought they were going to say that about most of the top rated receivers, but that’s not the case. In fact, he was the only receiver near the top of the board that had that ringing of an endorsement from a scout.
Here is a video of some of his highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GerdF1UABnU
There are a couple drawbacks that I saw. He doesn’t have great down the field speed, so getting open over the top will not be a specialty of his. He also can struggle with bigger corners that have the ability to jam him at the line.
Many observers have likened him to Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks. I can see those comparisons, but if I were to liken him to a current NFL player, I would say Keenan Allen from the Chargers despite Allen being a little bigger. Not a big guy but runs great routes, has good hands and can rack up lots of yards after the catch. The Texans have DeAndre Hopkins who can make big plays down the field so having a guy like Shepard who can work the underneath routes and go over the middle could be exactly what the Texans need.
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The thing I am afraid of is that not many Big 12 receivers have panned out in the NFL. The few that succeeded in the NFL that quickly come to mind Dez Bryant from Oklahoma State, Jeremy Maclin from Missouri and Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech (though he can be debated because he never lived up to the #10 overall selection, though he has put together a decent career). Lockett from Kansas State had a good rookie season, but the jury is still out on him.
The list of disappointments is longer. It includes Rashaun Woods and Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State, Josh Gordon from Baylor, Limas Sweed from Texas, Quincy Morgan from Kansas State, Michael Westbrook and Rae Carruth from Colorado and Mark Clayton from Oklahoma, among others.
I would proceed with a certain amount of caution before taking any receiver from the Big 12. However, Shepard looks like he could be one of the exceptions. Most people have him as a late second-early third round pick, so if the Texans traded down a few spots from 52 he could still be there. Of course trading down is a gamble, but this is a deep draft for receivers. I’m fairly sure he won’t be around when the Texans pick next at 85, but I also don’t think they should trade up from 85 to get him. I’d say moving down to the very end of the second would be best, allowing the Texans to acquire more picks. I would certainly have him on my radar to take in the second so I could address other needs in the first.