Position: Wide Receiver
Weight: 194 pounds
School: Oklahoma Sooners
Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 20 reps (tied for best among wide receivers)
Vertical jump: 41 inches (tied for best among wide receivers)
Broad jump: 10 feet, 3 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.00 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.35 seconds
Sterling Shepard 2016 NFL Draft Profile
In 2015, much of the hype surrounding receivers in the Big 12 tended to be centered around TCU’s Josh Doctson and Baylor’s Corey Coleman. Those two certainly lived up to said hype, finishing second and third nationally in receiving yards per game. But Sterling Shepard wasn’t too far behind them and was crucial to the Sooners run to the College Football Playoff last year.
Shepard came to Norman as a four-star high school prospect ranked among the nation’s top 150 recruits according to Rivals.com. It wasn’t much of a surprise when he committed to Oklahoma. His father Derrick played for the Sooners in the 1980s. And head coach Bob Stoop became a father figure to a young Shepard after his father tragically passed away due to a heart attack in 1999.
Shepard would make an immediate impact, playing in 13 games as a true freshman. His 621 receiving yards was fourth-best on the team and third-highest for a freshman in OU history. He added another 603 yards receiving in 2013 along with seven touchdown catches a year later.
But he truly began to establish himself as a legitimate number one receiver in Stoops’ offense during his final two seasons as a Sooner. During his junior season, he had 970 yards receiving and five touchdowns while being named a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (nation’s most outstanding receiver). He would also win the Disney Sports Spirit Award that season for the inspirational story associated with overcoming his father’s death.
It all came together a year later. Shepard was once again the Sooners go-to guy and favorite target of newly minted starting quarterback Baker Mayfield. He was a major factor in Mayfield finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. His 1,288 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns both ranked in the top 15 nationally. As a result, he was named first-team All-American by ESPN.com and first-team all-Big 12 by the league’s coaches.
- build and broader skill set tailor made for slot receiver at next level.
- above average bench press numbers at the Combine indicate serious strength for his size.
- soft, reliable hands; had very few drops in college.
- possesses an effortlessness and fluidity with his route-running.
- route tree is extensively developed.
- naturally instinctive at finding space in zone coverage.
- can create separation over the top with his double move.
- saw time on special teams as a punt returner.
- is a particularly feisty blocker for his size
- excellent work ethic and grades very highly from a character standpoint.
- despite potential in the slot, teams will have concerns about diminutive size.
- limited reach will affect his catch radius.
- good press-man cover corners could overwhelm him at the line of scrimmage.
- relies more on elusiveness than pure athleticism to get open.
- tends to hug the sidelines on go routes which affects ability to stay in bounds on catches.
- lateral shiftiness doesn’t particularly jump out on film.
NFL Comparison: Golden Tate
Teams with Need at Position: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins
Projection: late third to early fourth round
Sterling Shepard is a high character player with the attention to detail and work ethic necessary to make it in the NFL. He possesses an immense amount of raw power for a prospect below the six feet, 200 pound threshold. He demonstrated that by doing 20 bench press reps at the Combine. That still wont assuage scouts concerns about his below average build for the position. But with the slot receiver becoming an increasingly important aspect of NFL offenses, his skill set will be in high demand. It’s starting to look likely that he could end up as a late day two selection.