#72 Jets: DT Nathan Shepherd

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

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Overview
Shepherd took a unique journey from high school to NFL prospect, putting together strong senior tape and helping lead Fort Hays State to an undefeated 2017 regular season and MIAA Championship. He lined up primarily over the A-gap in Fort Hays State’s multiple front and served as a block-eater, which didn’t inflate the stat sheet (four sacks in 2017), but he didn’t go unnoticed as an All-American and finalist for the Cliff Harris Award (top non-Division-I defensive player).

Shepherd is an extremely active player with the lower body athleticism and upper body power to stay unhinged from blockers and in constant pursuit of the football. He shows a baseline understanding of how to use his hands, but relies more on raw ability than technical know-how, which worked vs. Division-II competition, but won’t in the NFL.

BACKGROUND
Shepherd was a 205-pound linebacker at J. Clarke Richardson in Ajax, Ontario and signed with Division-II Simon Fraser in British Columbia. He moved to defensive end during his redshirt year and spent the season adding weight to his frame. Shepherd played in nine games on the defensive line as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and posted 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Due to financial issues, he left the program and spent the next two years working odd jobs (construction, etc.) and taking community college classes. Division-II Fort Hays State showed interest and Shepherd decided to give football another try, moving from Canada to Hays, Kansas and walking on to the football program in 2015. He earned an immediate starting role and recorded 69 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, earning Third Team All-MIAA honors.

Shepherd started all 12 games as a junior in 2016 and collected 61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles, earning Second Team All-MIAA honors. He again started all 12 games as a senior and was named the 2017 MIAA Defensive Player of the Year with 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks, earning several First Team All-America honors. Shepherd received an invitation to the 2018 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, but declined once he received an invite to the 2018 Senior Bowl.

Analysis
STRENGTHS
Grown man build with broad shoulders and proportionate thickness. Nimble feet and lateral quickness in short-areas. Swivel hips with flexibility throughout his core. Wriggles forward and stays balanced through congestion. Hammer hands and swipes, making it tough for blockers to latch on. Uses his aggressive punch to snatch and discard of road blocks. Efficiently strings together pass rush moves. Relentless hustle and competes with contained violence. Two blocked kicks on special teams in his career. Added 100+ pounds of good weight to his frame since high school. Bet on himself by moving to a different country and walking on, eventually earning a scholarship and graduating with his degree. Started every game the past three seasons with improved play each year. Team-first mentality and “selfless” according to his defensive coordinator at Fort Hays State, frequently commanding double and triple teams on tape. – Dane Brugler 2/5/2018

WEAKNESSES
Older prospect who was physically superior to his Division-II opponents in college. Pads rise off the snap and needs to protect his legs. Relies on upper body power and effort over technical savvy. Inconsistent pass rush plan and tends to make it up as he goes. Needs to be a better backfield finisher. Inconsistent anticipating blockers and can be washed out of the hole. Anchor strength frequently tested. Can be late to locate the ball. Broke his hand (second metacarpal spiral fracture) during Senior Bowl practices (Jan. 2018). Inexperienced against top-level competition and never played higher than Division-II. – Dane Brugler 2/5/2018

IN OUR VIEW
Shepherd is an upfield player who likely requires a redshirt NFL season in year one, which isn’t ideal for a player who turns 25 years old as a rookie, but his exciting traits are promising for a patient coaching staff.

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