After spending both of their day two picks on defensive players, I was half expecting an offensive player to kick off the last day of the draft. To my surprise, they started the day off by trading their fourth round pick to the Lions for a future third, a very savvy move.
With their first pick in the sixth round, the Eagles surprised me again when they took another defensive player, Kansas cornerback, JaCorey Shepherd. Shepherd was a player I had heard some things about during the draft process but never personally dove into. Obviously, I was very intrigued, and after diving in a bit, my intrigue turned into excitement for the type of player Philly may have drafted.
Shepherd started his career out as a receiver at Kansas, averaging almost 17 yards per reception his freshman year, while scoring three touchdowns. Before his sophomore season, Shepherd was converted to play cornerback, which looks like a good deal at this point.
Shepherd does not have the intimidating size of earlier pick, Eric Rowe, but at 5-11, he is anything but short. At the line of scrimmage, Shepherd is aggressive to jam the receiver, but does so with good precision. His ability to consistently force a receiver to play his speed is his second best asset. His best asset, is how good he is tracking the ball in the air and making a play. His receiver skills show up consistently when contesting a catch, as he does a great job locating the ball and making a play on it.
Shepherd is not the most athletic player. He has good enough burst and ability to go up for a pass, but his deep speed is a worry at the NFL level. He can compensate for it with his ability to take good angles in coverage, and mitigate it by not opening his hips up so early as a reaction to speed, but he is a limited athlete.
As a tackler, he does not consistently bring the same physicality that he does in coverage. While he will not avoid tackling, he fails to do so with any sense of urgency. This is a fixable problem, but a problem nonetheless.
Ideally, he fixes his footwork at the line of scrimmage, because I think his ball skills and pressing ability could turn him into a good starting corner.
Pro Comparison: Will Davis
I was a bit skeptical at the time, mostly for not knowing the most about the player, but I am quite pleased with the value the Eagles got. Shepherd has a chance to see the field and make an impact very early in his career and getting that type of player on day three is tremendous.
Gone are the days of cringing at our cornerback depth chart. No. More. Roc. Carmichael. Shepherd has a legit shot at seeing the field early in his career. His ability to play in the slot or outside gives the Eagles a lot of choices with what to do with him. At the very least, he is a project player who will provide quality depth for the Eagles. However, it would surprise me to see the team fall in love with his physicality at the line of scrimmage and his ball skills and see him get snaps at the dime or nickel corner spot during his rookie year.
His impact year one is less important given the guys the team has brought in this offseason and I think it is very possible we see a big impact from Shepherd a year or so down the road.