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Redskins Rookie Enemies: Sterling Shepard

Hogs Haven takes a look at rookies the Redskins will encounter this season.

William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Sterling Shepard, WR — New York Giants

School: Oklahoma | Conference: Big 12

College Experience: Senior | Age: 23

Height / Weight: 5-10 / 194 lbs

Drafted: 2nd round, 9th pick (#40 overall)

NFL Comparison: Randall Cobb

College Statistics

Sterling Shepard receiving stats

Sterling Shepard return stats

Player Overview — Original Profile

Sterling Shepard is the son of Derrick Shepard, who appeared in seven games as a returner for the Washington Redskinsin 1987-88. The elder Shepard went on to play with the Dallas Cowboys (after a brief stretch with the New Orleans Saints), appearing in 25 games over a three-year stretch, primarily as a returner but also catching 18 passes. Derrick Shepard passed away when Sterling was young, and Sterling quickly became attached at the hip to Bob Stoops, the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, where both father and son attended. Because of this, the younger Sterling and Stoops were the eventual recipients of the 2014 Disney Spirit Award.

As a player, the younger Shepard is undersized and likely to fall into a slot receiver role. But what he lacks in physical frame, he makes up for in gameplay. Often cited as one of the top route runners in the draft, Shepard has an undeniable ability to get open, and he began to piece things together as the 2015 season progressed. He racked up a ridiculous 54 catches for 739 yards and six touchdowns over his final six collegiate games, never managing fewer than 87 yards in that stretch. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he was responsible for 31 percent of Oklahoma's receiving yards over the past three seasons.

Where He Can Hurt The Redskins

In my original profile of Shepard, I predicted he'd run around a 4.45 40-yard dash; he actually ran a 4.48 at the Combine, so he's not quite a burner. But he's a very smart, precise player who runs excellent routes and makes every movement count. He's probably not going to put up a lot of 200-yard games in his career, but he's the kind of guy you can count on for 70-100 yards damn near every game. I originally compared him to Randall Cobb, but the more I watch of him, the more I see a hybrid of Cobb and Julian Edelman.

Just about everybody views Shepard as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate, and it's not hard to see why. For one, he's got just about every positive intangible imaginable, including a big heart, a great work ethic, a competitive spirit and a proven bloodline. He'll also enjoy an easier rookie year than most receivers, as most rookie receivers don't have an Odell Beckham Jr. lining up with them. If Victor Cruz is healthy, that might actually bode better for Shepard, who still might be the No. 2 target behind Beckham, but he'd have the added benefit of another proven weapon defenses have to keep an eye on.

If Cruz isn't healthy, Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman should both be able to win matchups against him. If Cruz is healthy, however, the Redskins secondary could be in some trouble. Washington has two proven cornerbacks in Norman and Breeland, but the third CB spot is a big question mark. Most teams don't have three verifiable weapons at receiver, and there's no telling how good (or healthy) Kendall Fuller might be, so it's not a huge problem for the season, but a team like the Giants might very well be able to exploit that potential weakness.

Shepard is a guy who can come in and immediately be a useful part of the offense despite not having a huge athletic advantage — though at 5-foot-10 with a 41-inch vertical jump, he's no slouch. Most cornerbacks on the Redskins roster are physically capable of matching up with him, unlike, say, Beckham; the question is, how many cornerbacks on the Redskins roster can keep up with him on a route? If Fuller is healthy, the matchup between he and Shepard in Weeks 3 and 17 will be very interesting, and though Fuller could very well have a respectable career, it's hard not to give the early advantage to Shepard.

Finally, Shepard has some experience as a punt returner, having returned 30 in college, including 19 in his final season at Oklahoma. It remains unclear how much he'll be used on special teams as a rookie, but new head coach Ben McAdoo acknowledged Shepard would at least get some burn in the return game.

"We will certainly add him to the mix there. He will be a guy that is going to get some opportunities there, yes."