Editor’s Note: As our coverage of the 2016 NFL Draft and its impact on fantasy football continues, we bring you our 2016 Rookie SWOT series. These articles will feature video highlights, combine reviews, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, short-term expectations, long-term expectations and rookie draft advice for over 30 of the best dynasty league prospects from this year’s draft. We’ll follow that up with team-by-team draft reviews because, you know, that’s kind of what we live for.
Make sure you’re ready for your dynasty league rookie draft by staying up on all these articles, checking out our rookie draft guide, rookie rankings, rookie draft cheat sheet and mock draft rooms. There are simply no better resources out there for dynasty fantasy football enthusiasts.
Name: Sterling Shepard
Position: Wide Receiver
Pro team: New York Giants
College team: Oklahoma
Draft Status: Round Two, Pick #40 overall
Weight: 194 pounds
Arm Length: 30 3/8”
40-Yard Dash: 4.48 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.35 seconds
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Sterling Shepard comes into the NFL with a high degree of polish for a rookie receiver. He is an accomplished route runner with a well-developed route tree, specifically for his likely role as a slot receiver. Has the ability to adjust to the ball well and is not afraid to go over the middle – also important for the slot. He had a very low drop rate in college which should make him a comfortable security blanket for Eli Manning. Watching his tape, you can see an aggressive “my ball” mentality that is rare for players of his stature. His athleticism should him allow to create additional yardage after the catch consistently. His bread is buttered with athleticism, route running, and terrific hands.
The biggest knock on Shepard is his size. He is likely to struggle with press coverage and against stronger cornerbacks that choose to play physical with him. While he has an impressive vertical, his arm length and height make him a questionable red zone receiver at the NFL level unless he is able to translate his route running into being open on a short field. To be clear, this wasn’t an issue for him in college, but NFL defenses will be better equipped to deal with him. He also lacks the strength to fight off tackles, relying on his agility to evade would-be tacklers, so if defenses can contain him effectively he may display a limited weekly ceiling.
Rueben Randle has departed from the Giants, leaving a 90 target vacuum from the 2015 season. Other wide receiver options are underwhelming and/or aging and injury prone. The tight ends for the Giants are far from prolific. All of this combines, along with Shepard’s draft position, to indicate that he may be in line for a significant target load, possibly as high as 100+. There are rumblings that he has a little Randall Cobb to his game, and this could be telling given that new Giants head coach Ben McAdoo previously coached Cobb. Playing on the same field as Odell Beckham, Jr. provides a huge opportunity as Shepard should rarely face double coverage.
Perhaps the biggest immediate threat to Shepard’s production is Victor Cruz. While he has been down and out with injuries the past few years, there is still a chance that he returns to form and his chemistry with Manning goes back on display. Will Tye is also proving to be a solid option at tight end for the Giants, and could receive some of the targets that we expect may go towards Shepard.
For Sterling Shepard, it really depends on if the opportunities and threats break in a positive way for him. Given his level of polish, he could step in and perform as the Giants #2 option in the passing game and a dynasty WR3 right out of the gate. If things don’t go ideally for him, he may struggle initially and his 2016 floor is likely a WR4-5. The opportunity is there for him to explode as a WR2, but this is less likely. As far as ranges of outcomes go for rookies, this is one of the safer bets in the 2016 class.
The outlook for Shepard is tied to several factors outside of his control. He does not project as a long term WR1, as his skills are nearly perfect for the slot and he could serve as a viable #2 option for a team for his entire career. That makes him reliant upon having a #1 option capable of taking heat off of him. For now, he has that in Odell Beckham, but the Giants will need to retain Beckham for Shepard to benefit in the long run. Expectations may also need to be tempered down the road based on Eli Manning’s eventual retirement and likely replacement by an inexperienced quarterback. Even with all of these considerations, his ceiling is essentially Randall Cobb 2.0.
Rookie Draft Advice
The most typical landing spot in a rookie draft for Shepard will be 1.05, and that lines up with the May rookie ADP. Given that he slots in right after what is generally considered to be the second tier of players expected to go 1.02-1.04, there is some wiggle room here. Depending on how owners feel about other players in your league, Shepard may go as high as 1.04 or as low as 1.10. If you have your eyes set on landing him, your safest bet will be to acquire the 1.05 pick and pray that no one goes contrarian with the 1.04 pick.
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