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2016 NFL Draft: Sterling Shepard scouting report

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Niners Nation's Jake Narayan takes a look at former Oklahoma wide receiver, Sterling Shepard.

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Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard was rated as a four-star recruit coming out of high school by ESPN.com, Rivals.com, 247sports.com and Scout.com. As a freshman at Oklahoma, he tallied 621 yards and 45 receptions on just four starts. He totaled seven touchdowns and 603 yards on 51 catches as a sophomore in 2013. Shepard was named to the All-Big 12 First Team by the league's coaches and ESPN.com for his 970 yards and five scores on 51 receptions. As a senior, Shepard took his game to a whole other level and was named First Team All-American by ESPN.com. The former Sooner hauled in 86 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He was a machine from the slot, recording 1,015 yards and six touchdowns in 2015. At 3.17, Shepard had the second-highest yards per route run average from the slot of any receiver in this draft class. He can make things happen downfield as well. He caught all 11 deep passes thrown his way for 397 yards and four touchdowns this past season (2016 PFF Draft Guide).

The Basics:

Height: 5'10"
Weight: 194 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.48
Bench Press Reps: 20 (top performer)
Vertical: 41" (top performer)
Broad Jump: 123"
3 Cone Drill: 7.00 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.35 seconds
Hand: 9 3/4"

How He Compares To Other Wide Receivers:

Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston (5'9", 182 lbs): 4.72 40 yard dash, 33" vertical
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh (6'2", 197 lbs): 4.58 40 yard dash, 34" vertical
Ricardo Louis, WR, Auburn (6'2", 215 lbs): 4.43 40 yard dash, 38" vertical
Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado St. (6'1", 196 lbs): 4.64 40 yard dash, 32" vertical

The Rundown:

Positives:

  • Extremely polished route-running is by far the best facet of his game - smooth and maintains balance throughout his routes
  • Tracks the deep ball exceptionally well and possesses strong hands to fetch catches through heavy traffic and away from his body
  • A vast route-tree from the slot - can get over the top for the long ball or turn loose on the underneath route
  • A very slippery threat after the catch - very balanced in and out of his cuts and can make someone miss in the open field
  • 41" vertical boosts his catch radius - can climb the ladder and secure catches up high
  • Stacks and sets up opposing cornerbacks well prior to breaking off his routes
  • Great football and personal character

Negatives:

  • Lack of size may lead to durability issues in the NFL. Frame and arm length (measured the smallest wingspan of any receiver at the Combine at 71 5/8 inches) also results in Shepard being derailed off his routes easier
  • Struggles to get off press versus physical cornerbacks - see Clemson's Mackensie Alexander give him trouble at the line of scrimmage
  • More quick than fast and is not a creative punt-returner

Conclusion:

Regardless of being on-route to top-50 pick status, Shepard is one of the most overlooked prospects in the draft. He has first round talent and is worthy of a top-25 pick selection, and has the stats plus game-film to prove it. He possesses all the traits you want to see in a dynamic WR2 - leadership, strong hands, silky-smooth route running and can provide depth at punt returner. Shepard is a "plug-and-play" prospect who will give you tons of production every week, and instantly win the trust of his quarterback due to his reliable hands.

San Francisco ranked No. 29 in pass yards per game last season, largely due to the lack of top-shelf receivers. With Anquan Boldin closing in on age 36 and currently a free agent, and Torrey Smith struggling to do much of anything in the offense last year, the 49ers receiving corps is outrageously depleted. A dependable pass-catcher with big-play ability would bode well for the team's opportunities to win.

Draft Projection: 2nd
Pro Comparison: Randall Cobb