With the ninth pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected wide receiver Sterling Shepard from the University of Oklahoma.
SCOUTING REPORT: The 5’10”, 194-pound Shepard may lack ideal size, but he was arguably the best slot wide receiver available in the draft. Shepard is a very strong, extremely quick, and super-productive receiver with good speed. He plays bigger than his size due to his strength and excellent leaping ability. Shepard is an excellent route runner who knows how to get open. Sudden and creates separation. He is tough, fearless, and super-competitive. He attacks the football and has excellent hands. Runs well after the catch. Shepard has an outstanding work ethic and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has experience returning punts.
MEDIA Q&A WITH GENERAL MANAGER JERRY REESE: (Video)
Reese: Sterling Shepard, wide receiver, Oklahoma. Slot receiver. Has some return specialist to him. Terrific competitor. Just everything you want in a slot wide receiver. Our coaches believe he can play on the outside as well. The highest player on our board. I know you guys think I’m kidding when I say that, but highest player on our board, and an easy pick for us. Had a couple more names around that we liked as well, but it was too much value for us to pass this guy up. We think he’s going to come in and he’s NFL-ready —ready to play right now. He’ll be right in our receiver corps, and get a lot of competition in there, we hope. Any questions?
Q: Is he a little bit like a young Victor Cruz?
A: Yeah, some of scouts—that name came up when our scout group talked about him. That’s one of the names that came up, a young Victor Cruz. Very similar in some ways, body type. The one thing about this kid is he’s 5’10 and some change, but his strike zone—what we call a strike zone—is bigger than that. He’s got a 41-inch vertical jump, he’s got big hands…he’s a tenacious slot receiver, run after the catch. Get the ball to him quick and he does some nice things after that catch as well. Yeah, Victor Cruz was one of the names that came up.
Q: Does that worry you at all? Is that anything you guys even think about? Obviously Victor is a smaller guy, Odell plays bigger but under six foot, now a third guy under six foot.
A: You’d like to have all of them 6’5 that run 4.4 and all that, but it’s just not the way it is all the time. I think that there’s a lot of tall receivers in the Hall of Fame that probably never even played in a Super Bowl, if you look at that history. We think he’s plenty tall enough, and we think he’s a terrific young receiver.
Q: You said he’s NFL-ready…what are some of the things he has picked up to be able to play?
A: He plays in the slot…he’s just crafty and knows how to get open in his routes. He has the quickness, the explosion in his route, the run after the catch, and the toughness to go over the middle, those kinds of things. Good bloodline, too; he’s been around football all his life.
MEDIA Q&A WITH VICE PRESIDENT OF PLAYER EVALUATION MARC ROSS: (Video)
Q: What did you like about Sterling Shepard as a player that drew you to him?
A: He’s a guy that you go to Oklahoma, especially over the last few years – you go to certain schools and there are young guys, and you think ‘Who is that guy?’ He’s been that guy at Oklahoma because he’s always made plays. He’s quick, athletic, competitive and savvy. He’s has been a playmaker for them since the time he stepped on campus.
Q: Does his height matter to you and how much do you take that into consideration?
A: You like 6’5”, 200 pounds and run a 4.4 and all that, but this guy overcomes his lack of height with his other skills. He’s got a 41-inch vertical. He’s competitive to the ball. His catch radius is bigger – he plays bigger than his actual size. His catch radius is where he can go up and get the ball. So short receivers who play small are our concern. Short receivers who play big are not a concern.
Q: On tape he looks very tough, like he could break a tackle. Do you see that as well?
A: He’s very tough. That’s the knock on the little guys. They’re tough, but can they play big? He does both. He is very tough. He’ll go inside with no fear, catch the ball, take the hit, make guys miss and keep going.
Q: Do you think his lack of height kept him out of the first round?
A: Maybe, it might have been a factor.
Q: He’s not a skinny guy, right?
A: He’s rocked up. He’s not a frail, short guy. He’s thick and muscled up.
Q: Is he the type of guy to run the entire route tree?
A: Yes, he runs it all. The offense they run at Oklahoma, he runs all the routes, unlike some other college systems where they run up the field and turn around. This guy runs an NFL route tree.
Q: Everyone is saying he’s a young Victor Cruz, who wasn’t drafted. Do you see that?
A: It’s been thrown around. It’s been in our meetings. The comparison has come up. The stature, the quickness, the toughs, the ‘make you miss’ – those things are very similar. But I never like to say guys are the next somebody or compare them like that. But I can definitely see why the comparisons are made.
Q: You said that Shepard was the one you wanted. Were the first eight who went ahead of him not as important to you as he was?
A: All of the players are important. We stacked the board the way we like the guys and the way we think they’re going to fall. Obviously the first round is kind of predictable. The second round is predictable. But once you start getting into the third round, it just goes all over the place. But we stack our guys and say: first round, we like this group of guys, second round we like this guy. But coming into today, this was a guy we really liked to get.
Q: What does it say about how the league has changed, when your first two picks are nickel corner back and slot receiver?
A: It’s basketball on grass. Guys throw the ball. You need athletes getting in space. You still need to block. You’ve got to protect. But the more athletes you have out there, the better. It’s not ground and pound anymore. We throw the ball and a lot of teams do that.
Q: Was Shepard the top-rated receiver you had on your board since the start of the draft?
A: Probably not.
Q: Was this a guy you had your eye on prior to this year’s draft process?
A: Yes. He’s a senior, which is rare. You never see a top player stay for all four years. He had a nice body of work, as opposed to a junior who does one year and comes out of nowhere. This guy has done it for a few years. So when you go to Oklahoma, you always hear about Sterling Shepard – the guy who makes plays.
Q: Do you wait for positioning as you move along in the draft to get a specific position player?
A: We always try to match the need and the value, so hopefully we have a group of guys of equal value and need. We’ll take those guys.
Q: Did someone from the scouting department see all of Oklahoma’s games last season? Either in person or on film?
A: Yes, throughout our process, we had three scouts that go there. We break it down to early, middle and late, where our scouts go in and watch film that particular time of year. I immerse myself in the tape; Jerry, the receivers coach, as well. We’ve pretty much seen anything this guy has done.
Q: Was there any particular game that made him pop out?
A: The Tennessee game. That’s a quintessential game if you want to see what he’s all about. They were down and he’s making big touchdowns at the end to win the game.
Q: How instrumental was Ben McAdoo in the process given he’s an offensive coach?
A: No more than any other one. He was instrumental in that he liked him, which makes it good.
Q: Do you see Shepard augmenting or helping a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. go to another level?
A: I hope so. The more playmakers you have around a guy like Odell, the better. You want to double Odell, this guy will kill you. If he’s healthy, that’s a nice scenario for us.
Q: Is the goal of the draft to find a guy to complement Odell?
A: We definitely had our eye on the receiver position.
Q: Does it concern you that a guy you had your eye on has a big Senior Bowl week?
A: Without a doubt. That’s happened in the past, where we think we had a guy who wasn’t as highly rated as you think he is and then he blows up at the combine or the Senior Bowl. Then everyone jumps on him.
Q: Do you hope that doesn’t happen when you have a guy you like?
A: Yes, for sure, especially the combine. You like a guy, then he blows it out and becomes a combine superstar. Then it’s over with for you.
MEDIA Q&A WITH HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO: (Video)
McAdoo: Hope is everyone is well tonight. We got a great pick tonight, Sterling Shepard, tremendous young man, high character, plays the game the right way, plays the game the way it should be played, feisty player, can separate both inside and outside, strong hands, he’ll block you and we’re fortunate to have him, fortunate that he was on the board when he was.
Q: Is there a little Victor Cruz in him?
A: There are times when you see him make some moves inside where you see that strength and that explosiveness that Victor has, yes, but they are different players.
Q: Is he a classic example of a player who plays bigger than his size?
A: Absolutely. He has a bigger catch radius than someone who is 5’10. He has big hands, so he is not afraid to reach out and pluck it away from his body and he is very confident after the catch.
Q: Does he remind you of anyone who has played or currently plays in the NFL?
A: There are some similarities between he and Victor [Cruz]. There are some similarities that I have seen with some of the guys I have coached in the past in Green Bay. He is a high character guy and when you take a look, there may be a little Randall Cobb in him, you see that. He will reach back and pluck the ball the way James Jones did a little bit in Green Bay in the past, so he has that in him; strong, confident hands as far as being a hands catcher but there are some guys out there that he reminds you of.
Q: Is he mostly a slot guy?
A: No, he is like the rest of the guys we have. You look at Odell, he can play inside and outside and Victor can play inside and outside, as well, and Sterling is no different that way. He has been productive in the past on the outside, this year he played more on the inside but they need to be flexible that way and they are definitely bright enough to do that and he certainly fits that role for us.
Q: Is it mandatory for him to contribute as a rookie being a 2nd round pick?
A: Well, he is going to get an opportunity to compete just like everybody else and the cream will rise to the top there.
Q: You obviously mentioned Cruz and Odell. Can you see those three on the field at the same time?
A: Yeah, absolutely. We play a lot of receivers and we like to use a lot of different guys there. Dwayne Harris factors there as well. He had a nice year. Geremy Davis is coming along, Myles [White] has done some good things for us and there are a lot of guys who are in the mix as far as that goes and the more the merrier, the better the competition.
Q: Does it make it harder for teams to match up when you have three guys who can play all of the positions?
A: It gives you more flexibility. Obviously, Odell is a difference-maker and Odell is a guy that is going to play inside and outside, he is going to be on the single side, he is going to be to the three-receiver side, he is going to be in the backfield, he is going to be a little bit of everywhere, so the other positions have to have flexibility.
Q: How important was it for you to get a compliment to Odell in this draft?
A: We had the minicamp last week. We have confidence in the guys that are already in the locker room and we expect that they will continue to push each other. They are certainly not going to make it easy on Sterling and that is how we want it, we want competition in that room.
Q: You would have been alright going at it with what you had if the draft had unfolded that way?
Q: What do you find are some of the toughest things receivers have to pick up and learn as they come into the NFL?
A: Well, I think the offenses are different from where they are coming from. He has been maybe in a little bit more of a pro style type offense than some that we see. There will certainly be a little bit of a learning curve for him so that is probably the number one adjustment. We are a little bit different than maybe most because we will spend a lot of time in the no-huddle, so that may help him with the learning curve a little bit. The defenses that he is going to see. He is going to see a lot of big, physical, gifted athletes playing the corner spot. That will be a big adjustment for any receiver coming into the league.
Q: Sterling had some experience at Oklahoma on punt return. Do you envision him fulfilling that role in New York?
A: We will certainly add him to the mix there. He will be a guy that is going to get some opportunities there, yes.
Q: What are you looking to get out of your final four selections?
A: The highest guy on the board.
Q: You said the no-huddle with help him a little bit?
A: Yeah, I think it streamlines things as far as the information that they get and how they get it. It is a little more visual than it is verbal and some guys learn a little easier that way.
Q: He made a big jump between 2014 and 2015. Is there anything that you saw on film with that? Maybe a better quarterback?
A: I think the natural maturation of a young player and their quarterback play was better this year. That is a good point.
Q: How is he as a blocker?
A: He gets after you. I like that. He is a complete player. He is not a finesse guy by any stretch of the imagination.
MEDIA Q&A WITH STERLING SHEPARD:
Q: When you found out you were drafted by the Giants, how much did you think about playing with Odell Beckham Jr?
A: I mean that’s one of the guys I look at. I look at (Beckham’s) game every week and I try to pattern my game after him. I was excited to be able to get drafted by the New York Giants and be able to play alongside him, as well as Victor Cruz—another guy that I look at, too. I’m excited.
Q: Odell Beckham recently tweeted out that the Giants got themselves a good receiver or something like that. How does that make you feel to get the Odell Beckham Jr seal of approval?
A: That’s always good. He’s now a teammate so I’m excited to be alongside of him, like I said. To have his approval is great, it’s a great feeling.
Q: How much contact did you have with the New York Giants coming into tonight? Did they talk to you at all at the Combine at all? Did you interview with them?
A: No, that’s the funny part. I hadn’t talked to them very much at all. I went to the Combine, I went to the Senior Bowl and I hadn’t talked to them at all. I think I may have filled out a questionnaire, but that was about it.
Q: You had some good times over at Oklahoma…you had one of college football’s best coaches, Bob Stoops, helping you out down there. How did it feel to play at such an elite program, a program that was nationally recognized and made the college football playoff? How did the experience at Oklahoma prepare you for the NFL?
A: It’s a huge program, and it comes along with a lot of history. A lot of the guys that came before you that made a name for that program, so it was an honor to play there. I got to play after my father and wear the same number as him. It was an honor to put that jersey on every week and go out and give them my all. I loved it, I loved my experience at Oklahoma.
Q: A lot of people here with the Giants know Victor Cruz very well and say you remind them a lot of him. Do you see some of that?
A: Yeah. Like I said, that’s one of the guys that I look at a lot. Victor Cruz is a great receiver…we’re kind of the same size, same stature. I definitely look up to that guy. I can see some similarities.
Q: Do you consider yourself a slot receiver or do you think you’re a guy who can play on the outside? What would you call yourself?
A: Honestly, I play so big, I don’t limit myself to just the inside. A lot of people think that that’s all I can do is play inside just because of my size, but I think guys like Odell and Victor have proven that that’s not the case. I’m definitely one of those guys that can be bounced around and move all around.
Q: Is that something that motivates you — that people look at your size and pigeon hole you as just a slot receiver?
A: Yeah, man. I listen to it and I take it in and move on because I know what I can do. Just gives me a little bit more fire.
Q: Do you know Odell? Do you have any relationship with him? Have you ever met him?
A: No…I mean we have some mutual friends—Kenny Stills—those guys know each other. But no, I’ve never met him or anything like that.
Q: What do you anticipate with that when you do get to meet him?
A: It’s going to be like we’re going straight to work. Everybody is ready to work. I feel like we’ll click when I get there.
Q: In what ways do you feel like you benefitted from going all the way through your senior year as a player and a student-athlete?
A: One, I got my degree…that’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to accomplish since I was a little kid, is graduating from Oklahoma, so I was able to accomplish that. Then I got to mature just as a young man. I got to accomplish those two things. As a player, I got to get bigger and stronger and faster. Coach Smitty does a great job with the weight program and the conditioning, so I just developed.