Sterling Shepard has drawn the attention of the media and fans with some style during the current OTAs and has found himself at the forefront of everything positive to come from the off-season preparations at the New York Giants.
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) June 7, 2016
The second round draft pick from the University of Oklahoma has emerged as one of the most polished rookie wide receivers to arrive in the NFL and has been subject to heaps of praise from former and current coaches.
All affiliated with the Giants are extremely excited by this young man and the talent he has to offer next season.
Shepard finished his senior year at Oklahoma with impressive numbers, making 86 catches for 1288 yards and 11 touchdowns. Though his statistics don’t strike many as outstanding, it was his performances that caught the eye.
In an interview with Giants.com, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley highlighted Shepard’s passion and his leadership as a team player as key parts to his game.
He is a character that prides himself on hard work and energy, which is already an advance on Rueben Randle, who was so often criticised for his laziness.
Above the technical ability that he possesses, Shepard is a fierce competitor and, despite his size, a difficult man to bring down once in full flow as well as a difficult man for defensive backs to shake off.
Riley touched on his underrated strength: “He’s a great blocker. There’s very little this guy can’t do. He’s strong by NFL standards. He won’t have to get stronger.”
A fearlessness combined with a quickness in his routes and a pair of unbelievably safe hands makes him a receiver capable of dominating in the slot or as a wide out.
Eli Manning explained last week that Shepard had not dropped one pass in practice so far, which is not a bad start at all for a rookie.
His safe hands are a prominent feature to his play. He dropped just eight catches out of 253 during his time at Oklahoma. He was born to catch a football.
Shepard has gone some way towards shaking off the tag as simply a slot receiver having demonstrated his versatility with movement over the top and some good competition with bigger cornerbacks.
He plays with an explosiveness in both his runs after making the catch and his ‘whip’ route that has seen him dominate against man coverage.
His overall separation speed is another notable trait while his hunger and work ethic shines through in his ability to alter his movement to pass placement.
Giants fan will hope he is able to translate his ability in college to draw corners in before quickly adjusting his movement, to his play in the NFL.
The threat he carries will restrict the opposition defence from turning their full attention towards Odell Beckham Junior, but only once the league realises just how dangerous he can be.
Until then, he could be granted more space to work in than he is expecting which should give him a chance to not only ease himself into the pace of the league but also to make a strong start to his Giants career.
The chance to watch and learn from the likes of Beckham and Victor Cruz spells trouble for the Giants’ 2016-2017 opponents. An opportunity to learn from two of the most talented receivers in the league can do him no wrong.
The feeling right now is that Shepard has the potential to rise higher than many will have expected him to at first.
Initial signs already show this in process. He has been working hard to study the playbook and learn the offense since first arriving on day one and has already spoken of his need to try some new moves having been matched in practice by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
This determination to build on his already highly praised routes and his play coming out of his breaks sets him in good stead to achieve great things.
Head coach Ben McAdoo spoke of his desire to improve and better himself as a player during an interview with Giants.com: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Lincoln Riley also went on to suggest Shepard will have no problems getting used to a new offense and praised him for his quick improvement in his final year at Oklahoma when forced to adjust to some new routes.
Everything is there for this young man to make an impact for the Giants. He appears to be a quick learner and this could prove key in this off-season as he works out how to combat the lack of free releases in pros.
Certainly a talent for Giants fans to be optimistic and enthusiastic about.