Nathan Shepherd Offers Athletic Potential At Defensive Tackle In The 2018 NFL Draft

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A Look At 2018 Draft Prospect Nathan Shepherd As A Potential Selection By The Detroit Lions

One of the areas the Detroit Lions are likely to address early in the 2018 NFL draft is on the defensive line. New Lions head coach Matt Patricia puts a high priority on the front seven of his defense. While the Lions certainly are their own organization with their own leadership — It is important to note that the Patriots have often spent early round picks regularly on the front seven of the defense during Patricia’s tenure with New England. If the Lions end up waiting to address their interior defensive line needs until day two, Nathan Shepherd would be a very nice athlete for Patricia and company to mold.

Is Nathan Shepherd’s Athletic Ability Worth The Early Round Pick?

The very first thing you notice when you put on Fort Hayes State tape is just how much bigger Shepherd is than his competition. That is actually not a knock on him, at 6’5″, 315 lbs, he will be one of the biggest players in NFL locker rooms as well. But that size is overwhelming at times against inferior competition he faced in college. This is the trickiest part of his evaluation: can he do it against NFL level talent?

I truly believe that if he puts it all together, Shepherd could compete for one of the best at his position in this class. He has some inconsistency in his pad level. But, whenever he was able to fire out of his stance low or get under the offensive lineman’s pads, there was no little they could do to stop him. He can be overwhelmingly strong. He possesses a very quick spin move and a strong rip technique. His hand usage is quite consistent as well, which will help his game translate better to the NFL than some.

Shepherd combines a quick first step and nice burst, with a strong first punch at the point of contact. This frees him up often to find the ball-carrier and attack downhill. He does a great job lining up a target in space and securing the tackle. However, he does need to refine his pass rush move pool and find a counter for when his first move stalls more quickly.

Should The Detroit Lions Spend An Early Pick On Shepherd?

While I typically shy away from players whose profile is based more on their athletic ability, Shepherd has stood out to me in this draft class’s second tier of interior defensive lineman. He possess a rare combination of size, length, power, and quickness. He has shown great awareness and feel for screens, often shutting them down before they start.

However, he does have some things to clean up in his first few seasons in the NFL. He needs to get more familiar with what the offensive line is trying to do to him. He can get trap blocked and down blocked at times due to this. When his pad level is high against double teams, he rarely wins; he needs to get better at getting skinny to split double teams. Shepherd can lose gap control as a result.

Ultimately, I think Shepherd is a very rare clay that needs a special coaching staff to mold him into the impact player he is capable of being. I believe the Lions adding Patricia could very well be that coach for him. He does have some technical ability to clean up, but if there is anyone who can get him to reach his full potential, it is someone like Patricia.

Chat with Zac on Twitter @Warbs24 and on the Detroit Lions Subreddit community!

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