When Marvin Lewis attended the Sooners' Pro Day in early March, he probably caught a glimpse of lightning in a bottle in the form of Sterling Shepard, the dynamic wide receiver who totaled 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns receiving at Oklahoma, including 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. The undersized Shepard earned his yards largely in the slot, though he is also capable of getting behind corners on occasion. While he may not be viewed as a top receiving option, Shepard's ability in the slot fits perfectly with A.J. Green. In fact, the two could combine to give Andy Dalton the most versatile receiving combo he's ever had.
For Shepard's best plays in college, check out the following video:
The likelihood that Shepard is drafted by Cincinnati is actually pretty substantial. Back in March, Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke predicted the Bengals will draft him in the first round. But it's possible the Bengals won't have to take him that early. This is because, despite the fact that Shepard is as polished as they come and was even Pro Football Focus' top graded wide receiver for 2015, his size makes him less appealing as a first rounder, as most teams are looking for a number one option, a 6'4" guy who can go over the top of defensive backs.
However, such thinking may be outdated. Just look at the 5'10" Antonio Brown (perhaps the only player from the Steelers who could make the Bengals' roster), the 5'9" T.Y. Hilton, and the 5'9" Steve Smith (who remains a top-notch playmaker at age 36).
The Bengals clearly do not need a number one option, as they have the game's best receiver on their roster already. And they don't need a redzone specialist with Tyler Eifert rapidly improving. What they do need is someone to help move the chains in defensive slugfests (like the loss against the Houston Texans last year) and perhaps a dynamic return man. Tyler Lockett would have filled those needs perfectly, but Cincinnati decided to load up on tackle instead, taking Jake Fisher in the second round of the 2015 draft. Now the Bengals get another chance.
Height/Weight: 5'10", 194 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.48 secs
Bench Press: 20 reps
Vert Jump: 41.0 inches
Broad Jump: 123.0 inches
3 cone drill: 7.00 secs
20-yard shuttle: 4.35 secs
NFL Comparisons: Tyler Lockett, Kendall Wright
Projected round: 2
Strengths: Natural playmaker (his late father lettered for the Sooners in the 1980s), excellent route runner, sure-handed, thrives in the slot, great character and work ethic
Weaknesses: Undersized, will likely struggle against bigger corners in tight spaces.