As a wise man once said, "The devil is in the details". In football, it is not uncommon for the top tier players to have incredibly refined aspects of their game. Sure, there are plenty of tremendous athletes who can get by with their size, speed and strength alone, but it takes an attention to detail to elevate a player's game to a truly elite level. To compliment, it always helps to bring an aggressive mentality to the field. Football is a game for people who lack certain amounts of self preservation and if a player is not playing to embarrass the man in front of him, a team should have no spot for them on their squad. If you can find a marriage of physical gifts, attention to detail and a warring mindset, you have yourself one hell of a football player.
Receivers get a bad rep for being divas: Playing "soft" and always looking for a flag instead of fighting for the play. While this can be true, there is not an ounce of that mentality in Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell. Laquon Treadwell fights at every moment of the play. He will knock defensive backs on their ass during run plays. He will fight through contact at the line. He fights for the ball in the air. Best of all, once he has the ball, he is going to run through guys like he's a bull in a china shop. Treadwell lacks the refinement that would take him to the next level, but he is gifted with a tremendous mindset for a receiver. He is a heavy weight fighter. He is Holyfield and every defender that lines up across from him is Buster Douglas and they're a few rounds from getting dragged out of the fight.
If Laquon Treadwell is Holyfield, Sterling Shepard is Floyd Mayweather in the ring. Shepard is not going to blow anyone away with his size, standing 5-10 and teetering on 190 pounds. However, Shepard will kill a defense with how great his technique is and how consistently it's executed. Shepard runs a route like a Renaissance painter draws the lines in great pieces of art. Shepard is precise and his route running could cut diamond. Like Mayweather, Shepard's feet move like lightning and while he may not be blazing fast in a straight line, his ability to create separation through subtle cuts in his routes is tremendous. Unlike Treadwell, Shepard will rarely land a knockout on a defense. He rarely has to body guys at the catch point because of his ability to separate, but he will also rarely pop the top off the top of a defense. Shepard will just land small body blows, consistently hauling in intermediate passes and moving an offense down the field. Shepard has excellent hands and will fight for the ball as best he can. Unfortunately, because of his size, he is limited when it comes to being physically matching with larger, more physical corners. He can get bullied at the line if he does not release well, though he often has a great release. In traffic, while he does fight for the ball, his chances are hurt by his size. Though his effort can lead to the occasional big play with bodies around him.
The differences between Treadwell and Shepard are stark. Treadwell will win with size, great burst, strength and playing the wide receiver with a heavy dose of ultra violence. Shepard, on the other hand, is the type of receiver to kill someone with a million paper cuts. His precision, incredible agility and dependable hands make him an tremendous intermediate receiver.
Treadwell reminds me of Dwayne Bowe in his prime. Maybe not the most refined player, but has a special aggressiveness to his game. I do not think I will ever hate anything the way that Laquon Treadwell hates defensive backs and that shows on every play. He is the type of receiver you can run an offense through and with him continuing to heal from an injury a year ago, I believe he can still get better, which is scary for all the teams in the NFL who don't have the privilege of drafting him.
Sterling Shepard has a lot of Randall Cobb to his game. He has awesome quickness and is dependable catching the ball in space, but is not ideally the type of receiver a team is looking at on every down. He lacks the strength to spearhead a passing game, but would be absolutely deadly as a number two who is operating primarily out of the slot. I think Shepard is limited in certain aspects, but I think he can be an incredibly productive and reliable player in the NFL.
If the Eagles decided to add more talent to their receiving core, I would be happy with either of these guys coming in. In a way, Treadwell is who the team wants Jordan Matthews to be and Shepard is who the team wants Agholor to be. I could especially see the team loving Shepard because he fits an offensive philosophy predicated on short, precise passes.
For any other team, either of these receivers would provide an instant boost to a passing game. Treadwell should be valued more as he can take over as a teams number one from the moment he steps on the field, but I think that both of these receivers are worthy of first round picks. Regardless of where they go, I know both will be excellent NFL receivers.