Can New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard Be Offensive Rookie Of The Year?
It’s certainly a lofty expectation for a second round draft pick joining a receiving corps that has a top-five wide receiver on the roster, but is Offensive Rookie Of The Year a realistic goal for Sterling Shepard?
The New York Giants drafted Shepard on Friday in the second round and draft analysts lauded the pick as a perfect fit for Eli Manning and the offense.
Here’s Pro Football Focus’s write up on the Shepard pick:
“Shepard is one of the best route runners in the class and his +27.8 receiving grade ranked second in the draft class in 2015. He’s a shifty slot receiver, though he’s capable of winning on the outside and using his underrated ball skills to make just enough plays down the field to keep cornerbacks honest. Shepard is an excellent complement to Odell Beckham on the other side.”
Shepard’s a terrific route runner with great hands, something Manning was missing when throwing the ball to the inconsistent Rueben Randle. Ben McAdoo even compared him to another receiver he coached once upon a time: Randall Cobb.
Even if Victor Cruz comes back 100 percent healthy, and that’s a big if, Shepard still stands to see the field a lot. ESPN’s fantasy sports expert Matthew Berry explains it this way:
“When I say Eli likes to throw in three-wide sets, I mean he LIKES TO THROW in three-wide sets. He did it 551 times last season, to be exact — and that does not include four-receiver sets or any other formation. Exactly three WR’s on the field … 551 times or, to put another way, 89.2 percent of the time”
If Cruz can’t come back the way he and the Giants hope, Shepard is flexible. He has played both on the outside and from the slot and has been productive. Odell Beckham Jr. will no doubt get a ton of attention from Manning and rightly so. OBJ caught nearly 100 balls from Manning without a consistent threat on the opposite side of the field.
One reason Giants fans were so frustrated with Randle in 2015 is exactly why a player like Shepard could thrive in 2016. Beckham draws coverage from opposing defenses and Randle couldn’t capitalize on single-coverage situations. A capable receiver opposite OBJ should rack up huge numbers, especially if they can run precise routes and have consistent hands.
Controversial ESPN, soon-to-be-Fox, contributor Skip Bayless tweeted something controversial, as he is wont to do, about Sterling Shepard.
There are a couple things to take away from that questionable tweet. Either that’s a pretty uninformed statement or Shepard was the steal of the draft.
Bayless followed up on ESPN’s First Take, “He’ll [Shepard] make… Odell Beckham wonder if he’s really the best receiver on that team. That’s how good he is.”
As far as getting the OROY honor, Shepard will have to be a consistent target for Manning and make the most of his opportunities in the red zone. According to RealFootballNetwork, Sterling Shepard was targeted seven times in the red zone last season at Oklahoma, catching five passes that all resulted in touchdowns. If he can carry that over to the NFL, Shepard will put up numbers worthy of OROY.
Of course, Shepard’s not the only offensive rookie with the potential to put up impressive stats. He’ll have competition from Laquon Treadwell in Minnesota, Josh Doctson in Washington and certainly Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. The Giants have an impressive passing offense and Shepard will likely be a big part of it taking advantage of coverage shifts toward OBJ.