Position Ranking: #3
Strengths: Sheppard showed continual improvement in his technique and coverage responsibilities over the course of his career at LSU; a coachable player who works to get better. Did a good job putting his defense in the best position to make plays along the front seven. Leader of the defense. Showed very good gap discipline in run support and became a better tackler the more he was on the field.
Was asked to play underneath coverage in the passing game, and shows good awareness on routes and understands how to put himself in the proper position to disrupt the pass in his zone area. Shows quick recognition and burst as he releases into pursuit towards the opposite side of the field. Can effectively sift and scrape past lineman to make a play on the ball carrier. Good stamina and plays at the same pace for four quarters. Gives consistent effort. A tackling machine who leaves LSU with over 300 tackles in his career.
Needs Improvement: Has trouble with very good athleticism or strength, whether in pursuit against skill players or taking on offensive lineman; was a step or two behind even when his initial read was accurate. Gets engulfed regularly by lineman and needs to improve upper body strength to stack and disengage in run support. A bit tight hipped and has trouble quickly coming out of his breaks when asked to cover tight ends in man coverage. Needs to continue to work for penetration if stonewalled on first attempt to disrupt the line of scrimmage. Speed, quickness, and strength are only adequate for the next level. Looks and plays lighter than his listed weight.
Bottom Line: Kelvin Sheppard is a better football player than he is a pure athlete, which isn’t a bad thing, you just wish he was both. While his athleticism is adequate he lacked the explosion in his movements to get on top of plays and be a playmaker at the collegiate level. Tackles tended to be 5-10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
But his progression from the 2009 season to this year was clearly seen on film and Sheppard hasn’t peaked in his potential. He was given a variety of responsibilities as a 3-down linebacker at LSU and improved in every area from gap responsibility, coverage, read & react, and tackling technique. Sheppard benefits from a down year at the position and very good production in arguably the most NFL ready conference in football- the SEC.
Draft Projection: Mid 3rd to mid 4th round round.