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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ja’Quan Sheppard (CB – Maryland)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ja’Quan Sheppard (CB – Maryland)

FantasyPros will be taking a look at early NFL Draft scouting reports before the Combine in March. Here’s a look at Maryland cornerback Ja’Quan Sheppard.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ja’Quan Sheppard

Ja’Quan Sheppard (CB – Maryland)

6-foot-2 | 202 pounds

Background:

Three-star recruit who originally committed to Cincinnati. Appeared in a special-teams capacity for his first three seasons with the Bearcats, then took over a starting role in 2022 once Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant went to the NFL. On the year, allowed 36/64 passing (56.3%) for 481 yards, two touchdowns, and nine breakups. Transferred to Maryland after the season and allowed 24/61 passing (39.3%) for 358 yards, three touchdowns, and nine breakups.

Positives:

Two-year starter whose play took a big step forward this year. Has excellent size for a pro boundary corner. Plays in a lot of high zones from a shuffle technique, almost always on the right side of the defense during the games reviewed. Has pretty nice balance and footwork from his backpedal. Gets good depth to keep things in front of him. Sight lines look good from zone. Relatively smooth mover without too much wasted movement when he transitions to driving on a spot. Uses his size to pin receivers on outside releases down the boundary. Has the size and technique to defend against fades near the goal line. Despite not having any interceptions, did break up a lot of passes in each of the past two seasons. Shows adequate contact balance and lower-body strength in his anchor. Flashes some power in his hands to discard blockers.

Negatives:

Length is closer to average. Played more man at Cincinnati and struggled. Doesn’t have the quickest feet to match releases at the line. Would like to see more violence and accuracy in his jam. Could squeeze the stem of routes more when pattern-matching. Conservative approach creates opportunities for quick, timing-based throws. Doesn’t have particularly explosive speed when closing or recovering. Can be late to get his head around and locate when his back is to the passer. Length can sometimes prevent him from getting a hand on throws that a longer corner would be able to break up. Didn’t record any interceptions in school. Tackling has been an issue throughout his collegiate career. Would like to see more discipline to maintain outside positioning in his run fits. Doesn’t do a great job of getting extension to lock out stalkers. Some balance issues coming off of blocks.

Summary:

A big, smooth zone-cover corner who shows good sight lines and overall awareness, with a conservative on-field temperament that could appeal to “bend, don’t break” defensive schemes. He didn’t play a ton of man coverage during the games reviewed and may not have the ideal twitch and explosiveness to excel in that type of scheme, and tackling has been an issue over the course of his career. Looks like a mid-to-late-round, tools-based developmental prospect for a Cover-3/Quarters-heavy defense. The noticeable improvement he showed from 2022 to 2023 should help.

Projection: Round 6

More 2024 NFL Draft Prospects

Cornerbacks

Defensive Backs

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