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Can Sterling Shepard be a Fantasy Starter? (2020 Fantasy Football)

Oct 27, 2020

Sterling Shepard has been in and out of fantasy lineups over the past five years, occasionally posting a great week, but generally just providing a solid-yet-mildly-underwhelming output. Can you start him at this stage of the 2020 season?

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Player Profile

Sterling Shepard has been around for a bit, mostly bouncing between a solid WR3 and a decent waiver wire option. A history of injuries and poor quarterback play has prevented Shepard from being a locked-and-loaded fantasy starter, but he has often flashed productivity.

This season, Shepard has played in only three games, and he’s averaging 4.7 receptions per game on 6 targets. He also scored his first touchdown this past week against the Eagles. Last season, he had 576 yards and three scores in only ten games, and in 2018, he recorded 872 yards in a full season.

While 2019 wasn’t the most productive season, Shepard did offer some stability. He had at least six targets in every game he played and averaged 8.3 per game. Shepard’s average yards per completion was only 10.1, however, so he does need consistent involvement in order to be productive from a fantasy perspective.

His involvement in 2018 wasn’t all that different, as he had only three weeks (out of a full 16 this time) with less than six targets. He caught only 61.6% of his targets, however, which — not surprisingly — is indicative of some generally underwhelming quarterback play.

And that brings us to our next point.

State of the Offense

A lot of times in fantasy football, it’s completely fine to roster players on “bad” teams from a real NFL win-loss record perspective. Those teams are typically trailing for a good portion of the game, and that usually means they throw often, so starting quarterbacks and receivers on those teams can work out pretty well. If you’re starting a Cowboy (2-5, third-most yards per game) or a Falcon (1-6, sixth-most yards per game), you already know this.

That is not the case with the Giants.

The Giants are second-to-last in the league in both yards per game (282.4) and points per game (17.4). In their case, their shortcomings on offense have directly contributed to their poor record, as their defense actually has been fairly solid.

Daniel Jones is the QB30 on a fantasy points per game basis, posting three games in the single digits and only one game over 20 points. Darius Slayton is the best receiver on the Giants from a fantasy points per game perspective, and he ranks as the WR40 in that category. Shepard isn’t far behind him at WR46.

Over the next three weeks, it won’t get any easier for the Giants. Their next three matchups include the first-, seventh-, and ninth-best teams from a passing yards allowed per game viewpoint.

The only silver lining — in a weird way — is the inability for anyone on the Giants to stay healthy. They almost never have all four of Shepard, Slayton, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram available to play on any given week, so from a weekly perspective, Shepard may end up being okay on occasion. There are also rumors of an Evan Engram trade fluttering through the internet, and that would undoubtedly help Shepard’s ability to produce consistently and at a higher level.

Shepard’s Outlook

Shepard has always been a solid fill-in, but it’s been hard to predict when he’ll be any more than that. Over the next few weeks against stout pass defenses, I don’t think Shepard will produce enough to be a trustworthy fantasy starter. That opinion would change if (arguably when) one of his receiving peers is hurt and/or traded, but as it stands now, Shepard is a reasonably-high-floor, low-ceiling bye-week fill-in. Unfortunately, that’s all he is.

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Donald Gibson is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Donald, check out his archive and follow him @DonaldGibsonFF