Over/Under-Rated Sterling Shepard

Aug 4, 2017


Perhaps the only constant in fantasy sports is change, and in fantasy football that change manifests itself especially fast. Players can see their ADP swing a round or two in a single day with what may ultimately turn out to be nothing more than a minor injury. Fantasy players as a whole love to try outsmarting one another by using anything to our advantage, but that also creates opportunities. Every year there are players that slip through the cracks and some that rise only to fall and bring our seasons down with them. I want to take some time and showcase a couple of players every couple of weeks who I believe are being incorrectly valued, either over or under, and how you can take advantage.


Sterling Shepard, WR NYG

Current ADP: 133 / WR52 (12 Team, Standard Scoring)


Sterling Shepard had a promising rookie season and produced reasonably well given that he was third on the depth chart behind arguably the best receiver in the league, OBJ, and an established veteran with an extensive history with the starting QB in Victor Cruz. The Giants as a team fared well, finishing the year with an 11-5 record, but struggled to score consistently and were 26th in points scored. There is room for improvement for this offense, and with that improvement, there is opportunity for Shepard to build on his rookie year.

To start with, I wanted to look at some of the play tendencies of the Giants from last year to see what we can learn. Last year was Ben McAdoo’s first as the head coach, but it was the third year running his West Coast offense, and there will be no change in offensive coordinators to affect the skill position players. Shepard has had a full year to adjust to the nuances of the pro game and will work with the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and receivers coach heading into this year. For a young receiver, this is an ideal situation where the reads and routes will remain consistent. As far as pace of play, the Giants like an up-tempo system and were one of the fastest paced offenses in the league last year. Below is some pace data from Football Outsiders with the top four offenses last year in terms of pace of play:


This isn’t a one year fluke either. McAdoo has had one of the fastest paced teams in the league since he joined the Giants, first as their offensive coordinator and later as their head coach. Like most teams in the league, they keep the majority of their targets in the “short” zone of 14 yards or less away from the line of scrimmage. Shepard was excellent in the short middle and short right areas of the field, areas that will be more of a focus due to tendencies of a right handed QB. Here is a chart of Shepard’s success rate broken down by area per Sharp Football Stats:


The league average for the short middle zone is 57% and short right is 51%. Shepard has shown an ability to settle into space and produce in the short zone of the field, no easy task for a rookie receiver, and something that bodes well for his continued success.

The biggest factor slowing down the rise of Sterling Shepard as a fantasy football commodity is the addition of Brandon Marshall to the Giants. Looking at their production and usage, though, indicates that Shepard’s production should still be fine. I looked at the target shares, again pulled from Sharp Football Stats, and it seems like Shepard and Marshall should be able to coexist as useful fantasy assets:


Quincy Enunwa has a very similar usage profile to Shepard and Enunwa was a useful fantasy receiver last year, and is currently going two rounds earlier than Shepard. If Quincy Enunwa was a second round pick entering his second year with Eli Manning as his QB, he might be going even higher than that. Based on their usage, Marshall might see a decline in looks on the outside due to the presence of Beckham, unless the Giants decide to suddenly become a deep throwing team with both guys split wide. Even if there is an increase in deep outside looks, that will open the field for short looks underneath which will greatly benefit Shepard.

Now, having said all that, Shepard did just suffer an ankle sprain earlier this week in camp. There is a lot still to be determined about the full severity of the injury, but it seems like the worst case scenario of a season ending injury has been avoided. If this is something that doesn’t cost Shepard playing time in the regular season, I still think he is the much better bet to outperform is draft position, which is currently the 12th round. Marshall is going in the 5th and OBJ is a first rounder; Shepard is the best value of the three and has the skills to be the second best fantasy receiver on the Giants.

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