The Giants aren’t sure they’ll get Victor Cruz back this year. So they got themselves a new one. And if things go really well, they’ll be able to put both on the field at the same time.
With the 40th overall selection in the NFL Draft on Friday night, the Giants picked wide receiver Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma. While he is not exactly a clone of Cruz, there were enough similarities that when Giants scouts spoke about him they used Cruz as a point of reference.
“A young Victor Cruz,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “Very similar in body type. Crafty how to get open in his routes. The run after the catch and toughness to go over the middle . . . He’s everything you want in a slot wide receiver.”
Shepard said that Cruz is, in fact, one of the players he had modeled his game after.
“I definitely look up to that guy,” he said. “I can see some similarities.”
Another of the receivers he watches closely is, of course, Odell Beckham Jr. Shortly after the Giants made the selection, Beckham gave the pick his seal of approval with a tweet that said “We stole one!!!”
“I’m excited to play alongside him,” Shepard said. “It’s a great feeling.”
The Giants had an early line of Shepard, director of college scouting Marc Ross said, adding that on every scout’s trip to Oklahoma he was a standout. When he did well in the Senior Bowl and at the Combine, Ross said the Giants started to get nervous that their little secret would get out. Maybe it did, but not enough to keep the Giants from picking him when their slot rolled around.
“An easy pick for us,” Reese said.
The Giants are not concerned about Shepard’s size, insisting that he plays bigger than the 5-10 at which he is listed. He may not be tall, but he is strong. Ross called him “rocked up” and noted his toughness and his stature.
With the Giants, Shepard won’t be relegated only to the slot. Because they move Beckham around the field, coach Ben McAdoo said all of the receivers need to play multiple positions. They believe Shepard can do that. McAdoo said not only does Shepard resemble Cruz, but has similar skills to two of his former Packers receivers in Randall Cobb and James Jones.
While McAdoo said he was confident in the receivers the Giants already had, one of their perceived needs in this draft was to find a wingman for Beckham in the event Cruz cannot come back to form after almost two full seasons lost to injuries. Shepard should be that player. And even if Cruz can come back fully, he won’t have many years left.
“The more playmakers you have around a guy like Odell, if you want to double Odell, OK, this guy is going to kill you,” Ross said. “And if Vic is healthy, that’s a nice scenario for us.”
The Giants added safety Darian Thompson out of Boise State with the 71st overall pick in the third round.