Sterling Shepard

WR  Oklahoma

5-10, 194, (O) 4.48, 4.35 SS,

41" Vert! 10'3"Broad!  

7.0 3-C, 30.3" Arms, 20 R!

The Player the Pats Need in the 2nd: Part II.

By TOM

There are a group of players that I think can be developed into an Edelman type player: Braxton Miller, Danny Anthrop, and of course Keenan Reynolds. Sheppard is the most ready to help next season, even if you put him more outside and let the other guys run underneath him. Though I think LaFell is a big loss, Shepard could step in, outside, and learn the Edelman role. "I've gotten a lot questions about whether I can play inside or outside," Shepard said. "I believe I can do both of them. I did it all throughout college, and I don't think size played a big factor in it." His one stumbling block is his height, but he is only an inch or so shorter than Edelman.

He is a clutch WR who his QB goes to when it matters most, over and over all season. He father played in the NFL. "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," a scout said. "He's a great person and leader too. He's going to be a star in the pros." He run top routes and has top character.

Nice hands. He always seems to catch everything thrown his way. He can reach out and snag those quick inside bullets. Which are harder to catch then people give the slot-WR credit, because that ball comes out quick and is inside the slot guys body and hands so fast that it is hard to see. He has short arms. He likes to hop up when he catches balls on the second level, and catch it in his gut sometimes. Great inside out move from the Slot.

He runs across the field like Edelman after he catches the ball as well. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I keep seeing Edelman on Tape, and Troy Brown physically. The Oklahoma offense steals a lot from the Pats offense. He always seems open when he break inside, whether it is 5, 10, or 15 yards down field. Great burst out of his breaks. Great quickness off his herky-jerky running style makes it tough for CBs to stop and turn inside with him. Even when the CB has inside technique, he still breaks inside of him with his elite quickness in pattern.

They like to run a lot of screens to him, like the Pats like to do to Edelman and Amendola. Great quick feet when he turns inside, and then breaks back outside. Normally quick CBs cannot stay with him when he is running the jerk route. He also runs that short Dig like Edelman in the slot. Then he suddenly goes deep, and after all the short routes it is tough or a CB to stop him. He is very adept at snagging the deep pass, but he can be a bit of a body catcher on deep throws.

One reason I like him for the Pats is that he his an excellent route runner and studies it as well. "Just that I can run clean routes," Shepard said at the Combine. "Get in and out of my breaks pretty fast. Just all around smooth routes. Show that I have speed too. I think I can clock a decent 40-time. I don't know what people are expecting. So, that's kind of what I want to show them." He runs all those underneath patterns that make the Pats offense work.

He has that attention to detail in patterns that separates Pro-Bowlers from midseason cuts in a Brady led offense. "Shepard is bar-none the best route runner coming out of college this year," former NFL scout Matt Harmon said. "[He's] already showing great ability to execute even the most in-depth and nuanced aspects of route assignments like an NFL veteran." He was the best WRs getting open against one on one man coverage last season in college. 

You have to be able to read coverage and run routes the way Brady wants. He has the smarts and work ethic to do that. "When you compare Sterling, I compare him to Steve Smith as far as his work ethic," said Coach David Robinson who was training him for the Combine, "He's resilient. The thing I like about Sterling is he's very explosive coming off the ball. For him to be his size and for defensive backs to give him the cushion like he's 6'2'', 6'3''. I really like how explosive he is coming in and out of his breaks. He transitions real smoothly out of his cuts." He had one of the top five numbers for bench reps at the Combine for WRs (20), which does indicate work ethic as well.  

He is not a big guy and has to use quickness to break the press at the line. He runs precise routes against man coverage. "He's just a complete receiver," the guy who covered him in practice for four years, who I think is the most underrated CB in this Draft, Zack Sanchez said. "There's not too many like him. He's the best receiver in the draft in my opinion. I may be a little biased because he's my teammate, but from a complete wideout standpoint, I don't think there's a guy like him." He knows where to find the soft spots in Zones. He consistently explode out of cuts and finds himself wide open over the middle, and breaking outside. He does a good job using his feet and shoulders to escape the line. 

He plays a lot in the Slot, and lines up all over the place. They do a ton of things to get the ball into his hands. "Sterling is a great player," Bob Stoops said. "He is a guy that we always want to try to find more ways to get him involved in big plays and he can do it. He is having a great year." He is terrific making quick cuts over the middle to break open instantly. He can cross the field short and find the pocket between three defenders, and still give the QB an easy throw. Nice job reaching out with both hands and snagging the ball over the middle. Then he'll often just fall down as he anticipates the hit, like Wes Welker. Which small WRs have to do in order to survive inside in the NFL.

He will line up outside as the X, and all the way inside of the trips. Then on the next play he will line up in the middle of the Trips. I think he the top Slot WR prospect for the Pats. They have to consider trading up for him in the 2nd Round, which is unlikely because of the stolen 4th. Plus he has some value on special teams. He has returned 30 punts in the past two seasons. "The guy is incredible," Stoops said. "Just look at the amount of big-time, competitive, tough plays he's made over the last two years. He's made a ton of 'em. He makes special plays that make differences in games over and over." Last season he garnered 1,288 yards and 11 TDs on 86 catches. In the two previous season he caught 51 catches in each, for a total of 1,573 ad 15 TDs.

Of course his most obvious weakness is his size. But he does have similar size to Troy Brown. By all accounts he has Brown's smarts, his quickness, ability to sneak over the top, and the route running that made college Corners look foolish. Bigger CBs can beat him up a little, but if you can't grab him, like they allegedly can't do in the NFL, than he is nightmare to cover. 

Plus, he is a top character guy. He not only didn't get in any trouble at Oklahoma, he won awards for his character. "It's just leading by example off the field as well," said Shepard. "I'm not a guy that's going to get into any trouble, and I feel like guys respect guys who don't get into trouble off the field and handles his business on the field. That's what I'm all about: handling business." And he sounds like a Patriots player.

He handled his business all off season. "Yeah, I got a pretty good look at what that was going to be like at the Senior Bowl," Shepard said. "I did a few interviews already. I feel prepared for it. It was just some of the things I heard about the combine and kind of seen somewhere and I felt really good. So, I feel more confident going into the interviews having the kind of overview of what it's going to be like at the Senior Bowl. So, it builds your confidence a little bit. And, like I said, it gives you a little look at it beforehand." He gets it. On the field, off the field, and practicing for off season commitments, he gets it.

Senior Bowl Notes:

He was voted one of the practice players of the Week at the Senior Bowl. He will drop the low throws sometimes. He is so good at skipping past the CB, and then curling inside a little and catching the first down. He looks like a Patriots WR. He can  catch everything short, makes one guy miss, and takes off. When he clamps his hands on a guy he just doesn't let go. He will hold on until he falls down against the bigger DBs.

He is a big fan of Steve Smith. “[Steve Smith] showed people that he can play at a high level and play big,” Shepard said. “That is one of the guys that I definitely look up to and I know he’s coming back for another year. That’s the reason why I came [here]. I wanted to show that I have the ability and capability to play at the next level.” He clearly showed he could play at the next level in practice. Like Steve Smith, he is all heart and work ethic (without the madness).

He is not just an inside player. He has that knack for getting open deep. "[I had to show] that I’m a guy that can go inside and outside," Shepard said. "A lot of teams don't think that I can play outside, but I believe I can. [I've got] a knack for making big plays. That's what we pride ourselves on at Oklahoma and that’s what I try to do every time I step on the field." He is the preverbal little guy, who keeps stepping up and making big plays.

He is one of those little guys who are harder and harder to cover the less you can touch them in coverage. "NFL teams are looking for a guy that they don’t have to tell much," Shepard said. "They can just come in and start making plays. You see that every year. With Stefon Diggs at the Vikings. He’s come in and made some big plays for them this year. Guys my size are starting to really emerge to the top of this league." He was just running past guys, from the Slot, in 7 on 7's at the SB.

Additional Notes:

Tennessee: Small big play WR. It is tough to touch him out in space. Great at adjusting to the ball. He can snap outside and dive out and catch the badly thrown ball. Great release off the snap. He can shimmy-shimmy-shake his way off the line without anyone being able to touch him. "The guy is incredible," Stoops said. "Just look at the amount of big-time, competitive, tough plays he's made over the last two years. He's made a ton of 'em. He makes special plays that make differences in games over and over." Great off balance catcher. He can leap up, twists his body around in different directions, and snag the ball out of the air. He cuts underneath the coverage like an NFL slot WR. Great feet along the sideline. He can dance along the sideline with amazing electricity. Great clutch player.

TCU: The more I watch him the more I like him. You can't go Zone against the kid, or he will keep running underneath the LBs and turning up field for extra yards. He has such great feet to make guys miss, but he will hop backwards too much sometimes and get caught. He has a nice feel for when to go full speed with the ball in his hands and when to dance a little. He gives great effort blocking for his teammates when they run to his side, or throw a screen to his side. He is not the biggest or strongest, but when he gets his hands on the CB he keeps his feet moving and keeps the CB moving backwards. He will get into position quickly to block on the end around, and if the DB doesn't come up he will go to the second level and hit him. Not as effect when he can't grab shirt. But he really does a terrific job carrying out his blocking assignments.

Clemson: He drags like Edelman over the middle, and has great quick hands to reach up and snag the high pass with a hitch in his stride. Then he turns up field and is deadly in the open field. He runs so many short underneath patterns that he is used to catching passes in traffic and with DBs and LBs real close.

OK ST: Peterson was all over him when they played OK ST, and kept holding onto the passes as he hit him right after the catch. He does a good job catching the ball on his outside shoulder with the bigger corner on his inside shoulder. He makes those high catches look so easy. He has such nice natural hands.

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Shepherd Vs Baylor:

He lines up in the Slot. He works a lot from the slot like a Patriots WR. You can see him changing angles as he heads down field to make it tougher for the CB. He uses great subtleties in routes. The coverage is good and he has to fly back for the ball (:01). He also lines up outside, primarily on the QB's right. He uses his herky jerky release to get the outside sideline (:14). He will line up inside the Trips as well (:21). You can see him line up in three different spots on the first three plays, just like he would do in the Pats offense.

Now he is in the middle of he Trips. This is the odd frozen-fake. OK likes to do that. They like to hike the ball, and have players (usually O-line) not move to try and fake out the defense. It looks so odd with all the other offensive players moving, and he's just frozen (:37). Back in the Slot. This is what they like to do with Shepard. It is very Patriot like. They run three or of short Patterns. Then they send him on an intermediate pattern, which make it very difficult for CBs to stop that crossing pattern (:46). It is so tough for the CBs to cover him over 10-yards down field after he breaks off his patterns short so much, just like Edelman (:57). So he doesn't use pure speed to get open deep, he uses scheme as well. Though I thought his 4.48 was a great number for him. They run play action to bring the linebacker up, and you can see him already crossing over the empty middle of the field. The CB just can't stay with him. You can even see him running under him, looking for the short pattern.

Then they move him outside. The CB retreats before the ball is snapped, and he runs a bubble screen again. You can see they run very intricate patterns as all three WRs sell different patterns that turn into a screen. He has some room this time. He makes the first two guys miss by splitting them, and almost makes the third guy miss (1:10). Back in the Slot running an underneath pattern. That looks like Edelman running the Jerk route (1:20). He curls inside. Then watch him sell the route. His whole body continues inside as he plants the foot, and his shoulders and arms sell it some more. But he is already jerking back to the outside. #48 is in the rearview mirror nowhere in sight. Which gives Shepard time to catch the ball, turn up field, and dive to the marker. That was a great pattern.

Then he's back in the slot running a shallow pattern again. A lot like the Pats do, he just runs to the marker stops and turns. The reason I think the Pats have to draft him is because when I watch him I see Edelman in a Patriots-type offense (1:28). So you can see the set up again. Like the Pats, they run patterns to set up other patterns. He lines up in the slot (1:47). This is another reason I like him so much. He is terrific in the Slot. But he can also get down the sideline when they let him. Now he is not a pure speedster like Coleman, but he ran a 4.48 at the Combine. But like Edelman he get open deep with help from the scheme as well, and he makes the catch. Oh, and Edelman ran an official 4.52 predraft. By the way, Edelman ran a great 3.92 in the Short Shuttle and a 6.62 in the 3-Cone, which measures quickness. Shepard did match those numbers. He did not break the 4-second mark in the SS, or the 7-second mark in the 3-C.

He blasted right off the line. He doesn't hesitate at all he just goes. He shocks #18 as he angles outside and run right past him. He body catches it a little, but he was moving at full speed, and he knew the CB was going to hit him the second he touched the ball (1:59). Then he is back in the slot. Watch the feet, as he rises up and shakes the CB (2:23). One juke outside and he is five yard open inside. He even continues crossing the field like Edelman when he catches it underneath in the Slot.

Back in the Slot (do I need to say like Edelman). He tries to sell the inside break, but #48 anticipate the cut inside, under the outside WR, and jumps in front of him. He does a good job fighting him for the ball, but can't rip it out (2:37). He runs right past the Slot Corner zoning the flat, and just turns inside (2:43). He is a bit more of a body catcher than I remembered (2:59). Slides under the double team and makes the big time catch (3:09). They line him up outside, and he uses his feet to break inside and open up the sideline for his teammate (3:16). I like that route.

Once quick step inside and he crosses the CB, which he should never allow. The QB throws it low, and he catches it for a big TD (3:23). Back in the Slot. He heads down the seam, breaks open on a Corner route (3:39). Lined up outside. Comes back for the screen (3:50). He primarily played on the right side, but did take some snaps from the left. (3:57). He runs a simple Corner pattern. He digs his inside foot to fake the CB, and breaks outside. Making it look easy as he catches it with his hands (4:16). Watch this great quick burst out of his cut again, that sends him open (4:01). He is so good at making deceptive bursts out of his breaks.

Sherpard Vs Baylor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BhatqDTiTI

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Shepherd's Official Stats:

2015: Semifinalist for Biletnikoff Award ... named First Team All-American by ESPN.com ... picked as Second Team All-American by CBS Sports and USA Today ... chosen as Third Team All-American by Phil Steele ... earned All-American honorable mention honors from Sports Illustrated ... named to All-Big 12 First Team by league's coaches, ESPN.com and Phil Steele ... placed on All-Big 12 Second Team by AP ... started all 13 games ... led team with seven receptions for 87 yards and rushed once for five yards in the Orange Bowl against Clemson (12/31) ... led team with 10 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown and returned one punt for two yards at Oklahoma State (11/28) ... tallied 111 receiving yards and a touchdown on eight catches against TCU (11/21) ... caught season-high 14 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns at Baylor (11/14) ... made four catches for 94 yards, including a season-long 74-yard touchdown grab, and returned two punts for six yards against Iowa State (11/7) ... set season highs in receptions (11) and receiving yards (183) with a touchdown and three punt returns for 13 yards at Kansas (10/31) ... made two catches for 50 yards against Texas Tech (10/24) ... tied career high with two touchdown receptions and finished with 83 yards on four catches at Kansas State (10/17) ... led team with 95 receiving yards, including a season-long 50 yard grab, on six catches and returned one punt for two yards against Texas (10/10 ... caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown and returned two punts for 36 yards, including a career-long 27 yard return, against West Virginia (10/3) ... posted eight catches for 144 yards and returned one punt for 18 yards against Tulsa (9/19) ... caught seven passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns and returned four punts for 40 yards at Tennessee (9/12) ... started at wide receiver, catching three passes for 68 yards and returning four punts for 32 yards against Akron (9/5) ... named to Academic All-Big 12 First Team

2014: Winner of the Disney Sports Spirit Award ... named to the All-Big 12 First Team by the league's coaches and ESPN.com and All-Big 12 Second Team by the AP, 247Sports, Athlon Sports and Phil Steele ... semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award ... has played in and started 12 of 13 games at wide receiver ... missed the Baylor contest (11/8) due to injury ... caught one pass for 13 yards in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Clemson (12/29) ... rushed one time for four yards against Oklahoma State (12/6) ... returned one punt for 10 yards against Kansas (11/22) ... caught one pass for 46 yards before leaving the Iowa State game (11/1) with an injury ... tied school record with 15 receptions and tallied 197 receiving yards and a touchdown against Kansas State (10/18) ... caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, rushed three times for 25 yards and returned three punts for 23 yards against Texas (10/11) ... established a career high with 215 receiving yards, including a career-long 75-yard grab, and a touchdown on seven catches at TCU (10/4) ... managed 101 yards on six catches, rushed twice for three yards, returned one punt for five yards and one kick for four yards at West Virginia (9/20) ... went over 100 yards receiving for the second straight game with 109 yards on five catches against Tennessee (9/13) ... had eight receptions, including a touchdown, with 177 receiving yards and returned two punts for one yard at Tulsa (9/6) ... caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, rushed once for two yards and returned two punts for 35 yards against Louisiana Tech (8/30)

2013: Played in and started 12 of 13 games, missing the Iowa State contest due to injury (11/16) ... scored the first rushing touchdown of his career, finishing with three carres for 14 yards, and tied for the team lead with seven catches for 63 yards and another score in the Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama (1/2) ... led team with seven catches for 112 yards at Oklahoma State (12/7) ... caught four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown at Kansas State (11/23) ... eclipsed the 1,000-receiving yard mark in his career with five catches for 43 yards against Texas Tech (10/26) ... caught two touchdown passes and finished with seven receptions for 82 yards at Kansas (10/19) ... rushed once against Texas (10/12) for a career-long gain of 24 yards ... team-high five catches for 37 yards against TCU (10/5) ... recorded five receptions for 83 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown catch, at Notre Dame (9/28) ... season-high eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdown grabs against Tulsa (9/14) ... had two receptions for 12 yards against West Virginia (9/7) ... caught one pass for 11 yards and recorded nine rushing yards on one attempt against ULM (8/31)

2012: Named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Honorable Mention by coaches ... played in all 13 games with four starts ... his 621 receiving yards were the third-highest total by an OU freshman, while his 45 receptions ranked fourth all-time among OU freshmen ... made first three career catches for 48 yards vs. Florida A&M (9/8) ... made first career start and hauled in seven receptions for 108 yards and first career touchdown vs. Kansas State (9/22) ... recorded a season-long 52-yard reception at West Virginia (11/17)..

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