2017 fantasy storylines: Second-year breakout for Sterling Shepard
(This week, some of the PFF Fantasy team will be offering up their forecasts for some of the biggest storylines of the 2017 season. It’s Time Machine Week.)
In 2016, New York Giants rookie receiver Sterling Shepard assumed a critical role alongside Odell Beckham Jr., and he performed admirably, hauling in 65 of 103 targets for 683 yards and eight touchdowns. He was second among rookie receivers in all of those categories, trailing only New Orleans’ Michael Thomas.
Shepard finished the 2016 season as the No. 35 receiver in both standard and PPR leagues. But entering his sophomore season — the year in which wide receivers typically see their largest year-over-year increase in fantasy production — Shepard is the 39th receiver coming off early draft boards in both formats, typically in the ninth round.
This makes no sense to me, and as such, Shepard is one of the most underrated wideouts with high upside heading into the new league year.
That’s not to say everything was rosy during Shepard’s rookie season. He graded out as our No. 58 receiver (out of 115), so he was a middle-of-the-pack plays run terms of actual football play. There’s certainly room for improvement in that area.
From a fantasy perspective, he was also inefficient in the yardage department. Despite his strong 103 targets (32nd among receivers), he gained only 683 yards (49th). His 6.6 yards per target ranked 102nd out of 130 qualifying receivers. In a similar vein, he gained just 1.12 yards per route run, which ranked 49th out of 51, just ahead of Tavon Austin (1.08) — any time you are next to Austin in an efficiency department, it’s not the best of comparisons.