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Possible Patriots Draft Target, WR Sterling Shepard

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 years ago at 10:00 am ET

Possible Patriots Draft Target, WR Sterling ShepardUSA Today - USA TODAY Sports

Shepard Has Been Widely Mocked as a Great Fit for NE

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots suffered a rash of injuries in 2015 and many were on the WR core. Brandon Gibson and Brian Tyms didn’t even make it out of training camp. Then Aaron Dobson went on IR, and Julian Edelman missed two months with a broken foot.  Danny Amendola trudged on like a good soldier, but the team was forced to rely on Keshawn Martin and rookie Chris Harper to provide too many snaps for the offense.

The team cut ties with both Tyms and Gibson this spring and then brought in WR Chris Hogan from the Buffalo Bills. With a healthy Edelman and Amendola and an additional year in the system for Martin and Harper, things are looking up. No one knows what to expect from Dobson at this point of his career. So the Patriots could still use another wide receiver to round out the depth in 2016.

Many of us who follow and write about the team would like to see them target a bigger wide receiver who can work outside the numbers and use his size to go into traffic and come down with contested passes. A bigger, faster wide receiver who can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally, which is more in line with the Patriots system.

Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma is a wide receiver that would fit in well with the Patriots system. He is a slightly undersized one that can work the underside of a defense and make them pay in the short to intermediate passing game.

A Legacy player for the Sooners both his late father and his uncles suited up for Oklahoma before he did. So there was never a doubt that eventually he’d end up at Norman as well.

Had a fantastic 2015 being named to the USA Today second-team All-American Team with 86 catches, 1288 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. The 5’10, 194 pound Shepard has sticky hands, great quickness off the line of scrimmage and is tough as nails despite his size, not afraid to do the dirty work over the middle of the field.

Quicker than fast, he ran a 4.48 in the 40 Yard Dash at the NFL Combine but showed great strength doing 20 reps on the Bench Press and a very impressive 41-inch vertical leap showing tremendous leaping ability and explosion.

Sep 5, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) runs the ball against the Akron Zips during the second quarter at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Pros:

– Excellent route quickness, very fast out of his breaks

– Ran a variety of routes from the slot and can be asked to do anything

– Adjusts well to the ball in the air, outstanding leaping ability

– Excellent hands, just eight drops in 253 catches

– Outstanding work ethic and character

Cons

– Size is an issue, can he hold physically up in the NFL

– Physical press cornerbacks have given him problems at the line

– Small catch radius

What his Role Will Be:
His role will be competing for one of the wide receiver spots on the team and being an immediate impact player.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with a year in the system he will be looked to, to be the primary slot receiver on the team.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot will be in direct competition with guys like Amendola, Harper and Martin.

What is his ST Value?
Fair, could be used as a return man

Conclusion:
Shepard is another guy who is an undersized, quicker than fast wide receiver that could have a tremendous impact with the Patriots. Many draftniks have pointed to his fit with the Patriots system. And he would be an easy fit. Tom Brady would like him immediately with his quickness in and out of his breaks and the ability to catch the football across the middle.

He can occasionally hit the homerun with his double move to fool a cornerback. But he doesn’t have elite speed to go deep consistently. He’s very smooth and is a proven guy that will move the chains as well as a willing blocker in the running game or downfield.

But the bigger question is, do the Patriots need another slot guy? With three players (Edelman, Amendola and Hogan), that can already play in the slot, would drafting a player, albeit as talented as Shepard be a redundancy for the offense?

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Potential Starter. He should fit in very well into the NE offense. He’s slotted to go between Rounds 2-3 in the upcoming NFL Draft. If he’s around in that timeframe, the Patriots could definitely have some interest.

 

Shepard’s highlight film can be found here, courtesy of Essential Exposure Media:

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Posted Under: Patriots 2016 NFL Draft
Tags: 2016 NFL Combine 2016 NFL Draft 2016 Patriots Draft 2016 Patriots Mock Drafts 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Danny Amendola Julian Edelman New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots wide receivers Rob Gronkowski Sterling Shepard Tom Brady


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