Last night, the Jets selected Fort Hays State defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. After digging in a bit deeper on him, here are some interesting facts and numbers I’ve found, along with some of my thoughts on the pick.
Measurables-wise, Shepherd is intriguing.
Looking to see how defensive linemen with similar athletic profiles and draft positions have fared in the NFL, I found an encouraging nugget. Among offensive linemen drafted in the top three rounds from 2000-2014 (giving a four-year buffer to leave out players who haven’t gotten chances to fully develop) weighing 315+ and running a 40 of 5.10 or lower, 11 of 16 (69%) have gone on to accumulate 40+ AV; which is all-in-all solid production to get out of a defensive line pick. You have to understand that a hit rate that high going into the third round is very strong. Former Jets Muhammad Wilkerson and Sione Pouha are part of the group. Will Shepherd join them?
Scouting Report Synopsis
As already shown, Shepherd is hailed for impressive athletic tools in addition to his dominance against lower level competition. Shepherd has added over 100 pounds to his frame since high school, an impressive feat considering the athleticism he has retained.
How he will adjust to higher level competition is the obvious question mark. However, the event that catapulted Shepherd this high seemed to be his Senior Bowl performance, where he put some really impressive reps on tape against highly-regarded offensive line prospects.
Thoughts on Jets’ Positional Value
The main complaint I’ve seen with this selection is the Jets’ ignorance of the pass rushing spot. It’s a minor concern to me. Edge rusher has become arguably the game’s second most crucial position, and the Jets continue to pass on it until later in the draft. It’s been obvious during Bowles’ tenure that the focus is interior pressure and not the other way around. It can work, but it takes a lot of talent to do it, and the Jets have arguably not yet fielded a plus pass rush since Bowles took over.
However, you have to understand that defensive line is a need on this team as well. In addition to Leonard Williams, the Jets’ other two starters in their base 3-4 figure to be Mike Pennel (decent nose tackle, not proven to be much more as of yet) and Steve McLendon (good situational player, but transitioning to a more frequent DE role at his age is a gamble). Plus, the draft is for the most part an educated crapshoot once you get past round two. You want to stockpile depth at positions where you need it, but you also cannot be reaching to fill a need when the talent pool becomes so sparse. Edge rusher is one of the most round one dominant positions in the league, and unfortunately circumstances didn’t allow the Jets to focus on the position that highly this year. If you can get a good player anywhere past the first/second round, it’s a win regardless of position.
Are you mad the Jets picked a defensive lineman in round three?
This poll is closed
No, I trust they picked their highest ranked player
Yes, should have went edge
Yes, should have went offensive line
Yes, should have went another position besides OL/Edge
No, I just am not a fan of the player and would have went another direction