Baltimore Ravens Draft Prospect: Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard

Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Ravens are in the market for a slot receiver and Sterling Shepard of Oklahoma would be a great fit in Marc Trestman’s offense.

The NFL Combine is in full swing and one of the biggest needs for the Baltimore Ravens is at wide receiver. Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh were in attendance today when the pass catchers took the field and have their eyes on a few of the players that participated.

This year’s class of receivers does not have the superstar potential of the past. Laquon Treadwell is considered the top receiving prospect in this group, but after that, it is a guessing game of who is the next best at the position. It is a rather slow class in terms of speed, but there are plenty of guys with the ability to catch the football.

There are some guys that do stick out as you watch the combine. William Fuller, one of several players I’ve already highlighted, ran a 4.32 40-yard dash, the fastest of any wide receiver. There is a lot of hype surrounding Braxton Miller, although the hype is more about him transitioning from successful college quarterback to NFL wide receiver. Treadwell did not run the 40, but did take part in the on-field workouts. In a backwards hat. It was awkward to watch.

The Ravens would love to have all three aforementioned names. They each would bring a certain element to the offense that this team is currently lacking. However, there was one player that really stuck out to me today during the NFL Combine and that was Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard.

A quarterback’s best friend is his hot read, but who is that guy for the Ravens? For years, Joe Flacco looked to Dennis Pitta as his security blanket. Last season, the trio of tight ends combined for 83 receptions for 833 yards and five touchdowns. Solid numbers, but the team would love to get more production in the middle of the field. 

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What the Ravens are missing is a player in the slot that creates havoc. I was very fond of the idea of the Ravens selecting Tyler Lockett in last year’s draft. Obviously, things did not play out that was as the Ravens selected Breshad Perriman in the first round and Seattle Seahawks were able to snatch him later in the draft. He turned out to be a fantastic player for them and was a regular contributor on offense by the end of the season.

The player that has drawn the most comparisons to Lockett in this draft is Shepard. Shepard does not have the speed that Lockett possesses, but is a better receiver. He is a perfect candidate to man the slot and Mike Mayock compared him to Randall Cobb. It’s a perfect correlation and someone the Ravens could really use in their offense.

Shepard is not lightning fast as the 40 time suggests, but has terrific quickness in and out of his cuts. He is almost impossible to stay with in the slot and can make tough catches in traffic. That quickness also gets defenders in trouble as Shepard has an array of moves to get open and has just enough speed to get behind corners on double moves. What is most impressive is his hands. He only had eight drops compared to 253 receptions in his collegiate career. His hands were on full display at the combine as he caught almost everything thrown his way.

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The knock on Shepard will be his smaller stature which can get him eaten up in press coverage. Some teams will not consider him because he is limited on the outside, but Ozzie drafted Perriman to fill that role. Giving Flacco playmakers is a priority for the Ravens. Shepard gives Baltimore something they have not had much success with since Brandon Stokley was catching passes. Steve Smith and Perriman will line up outside, while Shepard works the slot. If he turns out to be anything like Cobb is for the Packers, he would be a welcomed addition to the Ravens offense.