Lito Sheppard, CB
(5101, 194, 4.39-4.50) Florida
Notes: Born Lito Decorian Sheppard, 4/8/81, in Jacksonville, Fla., where he attended William M. Raines High School. Had 18 interceptions during his junior and senior seasons. Also lettered in track. Cousin of current Broncos wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. He and his wife, Nicole, have a daughter and a son. The couple was married in Disney World during the 2005 offseason. Nicole graduated from Florida with a business management degree in 2005. He also has an older daughter who resides in Jacksonville. In 2006, he started the "Good Sheppard Foundation" to help guide disadvantaged and at-risk children into gaining a "can-do" attitude about education and the opportunities it creates.
College: Played in all but one game (203 total snaps) as a true freshman in 1999. Starter as a sophomore (2000) and earned All-America honors by some and first-team All-SEC recognition, with 49 tackles, 6 interceptions for 179 yards and 5 pass breakups; also averaged 14.0 on 22 punt returns and 22.9 on 13 kickoff returns. As a junior (2001), he recorded 42 tackles, 6 PBU, 2 interceptions, 9.5 average on punt returns and 24.4 on kickoff returns. Sociology major.
Pre-Draft: Posted forty times in the 4.39-4.49 range coming out of college and had a 37 ½-inch vertical jump, 10'-0" broad jump and did 11 reps at 225 pounds.
Pro: Originally selected in the first round (No. 26 overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2002 NFL Draft. Saw action in 12 games as a rookie in 2002 and posted 13 tackles. Started 9-of-16 games in 2003; recorded 51 tackles, 17 PBU, 1 INT (for 34 yards) and one forced fumble. Earned All-Pro honors as he started all but one game in 2004; with 56 tackles, 1 sack, 9 PBU, 5 INT (for 172 yards, 2 TD, one 101 yards). In 10 games in 2005, he posted 31 tackles, 1 sack, 6 PBU, 3 INT (for 72 yards) and one forced fumble. In 13 games in 2006, he had 30 tackles, 13 PBU, 6 INT (for 157 yards, including a 102-yard TD) and received his second Pro Bowl berth. Limited to 11 games in 2007; recorded 51 stops, 5 PBU and 2 INT (for 25 yards). Started 3-of-16 games in 2008; with 21 tackles 4 PBU, 1 INT and one forced fumble. Traded to the Jets in 2009, he started 9-of-11 games and posted 31 tackles, 8 PBU and one interception.
Sheppard was traded to the New York Jets on February 28, 2009, for a fifth round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and a conditional pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was released by the Jets on March 4, 2010. Visited the Vikings on April 21, 2010 and signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Minnesota.
Positives: Excellent pure athlete. Short but not small; very well-built. Good cover skills. Quick-footed and fluid hips with nice change-of-direction, quickness, instincts and anticipation. Good ball skills. Makes big plays. Effective runner after the interception.
Negatives: Average height and struggles at time against bigger receivers. Not always as physical as you'd like on run support. Gets sloppy with his technique at times and gave up too many big plays last season. Has a tendency to play off too much at times trying to anticipate an interception.
Summary: Sheppard gets first crack at starting at right cornerback with Cedric Griffin coming off major knee surgery. He brings a veteran presence and should do better in the Cover-2 scheme the Vikings often deploy instead of being isolated one-on-one as often as he was with the Jets last year. Offers the Vikings flexibility going into the draft in that they no longer "have" to take a corner early.
Kevin Brown has been providing personnel analysis and writing about the Vikings for more than 20 years with Viking Update. Follow VU on Twitter and discuss this and other topics on our message boards.