After superstar Odell Beckham Jr. was drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft, he has taken the NFL by storm. The amount of records he set during his first season alone was staggering, as he took hold of records not just within the Giants organization, but the NFL as a whole. This despite the fact he missed a majority of off-season workouts, all of preseason, and the first four games of the regular season.
Now all eyes are on Sterling Shepard, the New York Giants ’ 2nd round pick of the 2016 draft. Widely considered to be one of the most pro-ready receivers coming out of this year’s crop, the former Oklahoma Sooner could be the next Odell Beckham Jr., right?
Well… no. And that is okay.
Beckham set numerous rookie records his year first on the job, putting himself in the top 10 of all major receiving categories in 2014, and while only playing 12 games. Even when opposing defenses knew what Beckham was capable of, he was still splitting double coverage and finding space in the open field. Posting 91 grabs, 1,305 yards, and 12 TDs, Beckham led the greatest campaign for a rookie WR of all time.
Now this is not to say Shepard could not have a breakout year as a rookie. If he performs well at the slot position, he could conceivably post some impressive numbers. However, it is worth noticing that last year Beckham led the team in all major receiving categories (again) by a landslide. The former Giant Rueben Randle was the only other WR even remotely close to Beckham and Randle had roughly half as many receiving yards.
With Randle gone, the Giants are left with OBJ, the hopeful emergence of Victor Cruz, reliable pass catchers in running mates Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, and a few good pass catchers at the TE spot. In terms of sheer targets, Shepard could not possibly post the type of numbers Beckham had.
But again, that is okay.
The Giants do not need another Beckham. What they needed was someone to effectively manage the slot position at WR, providing Eli Manning with another dependable option on 3rd down. This can keep Victor Cruz on the field opposite of Beckham instead of shifting him to the slot, taking pressure off his return to the gridiron.
Defensive coordinators are already having nightmares about having to cover Beckham and Cruz, which can only be a good thing for Shepard statistically. If Eli Manning can manage to spread the ball around enough, the rookie could notch 500 yards and perhaps a few TDs. And not a soul should complain with a rookie season like that.