Q&A: Jets GM Maccagnan and head coach Bowles on Canadian DL Shepherd

Canadian defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd was selected in the third round, 72nd overall of the 2018 NFL draft by the New York Jets.

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles met with the media to discuss the pick.

Question: When did Shepherd come on your radar?

Maccagnan: We knew about him when we want out in the fall. Our college scouts went in there, liked him. My first exposure to him was at the Senior Bowl where he came and actually practiced and wasn’t able to play in the game, unfortunately, but came into practices and did quite well. That put him on our radar. Then we had the Indianapolis scouting combine, went there again another environment where he had a chance to perform and did exceptionally well. He had a pro day, which we attended with our coaches. These are the guys you kind of get excited about, although he may be slightly older, they’re interesting guys that aren’t in the normal path of high school to college and big programs. Obviously he came from Canada – had an interesting start to his career where he actually took a little time and worked and when you find a guy who has overcome a lot of things like that and really persevered, he had a lot of things we felt from a character standpoint if we’re going to invest in a guy that maybe had a different path, we think he has a lot of potential, but not only that the character and work ethic to fulfill it. On a side note he is Canadian, my wife is Canadian – I’m just joking. He’s a guy we like quite a bit so it was actually funny talking to him he’s from the Toronto area where my wife is from so we kind of compared notes when he came in here for a 30 visit – talking about Canada was a nice connection with him.

Q: Are you concerned that he’s already 25?

Maccagnan: It’s still a significant amount of time. You weigh it with the ability and the potential – I feel good about it. The guy has tremendous upside, so I’m excited to see how he does. He went to an environment where he did well and we compared him to other players around there and we felt good about the investment, we felt good about the risk. I really don’t feel he’s too old of an investment for a draft pick.

Q: Scouting reports say he’s raw, do you feel he’s more pro ready than people think?

Bowles: I definitely believe he’s a lot more pro-ready than a lot of people think. When they say raw they don’t mean years away, he may need some weeks or even training camp. He’ll definitely play in the rotation. He’s got heavy hands, he’s quick off the ball, he stays low, he’s got a great drive, so he’ll be ready once he goes to training camp.

Q: What did you think of his years away from football working multiple jobs?

Bowles: For him, I think it’s great, he was determined to make money and go to work and go back to school because he was driven is outstanding. Obviously, things happen out in the real world that you have to take responsibility for he took his responsibility and he was driven to go back and he made something of himself and I’m actually proud of the guy.

Q: How do you view him as a pass rusher?

Bowles: He’s got heavy hands, he’s got some quickness to him, he can use some technique work but we’ll work on that.

Q: Shepherd said he’s 315 which seems a little heavier for a 3-4 defensive end, so do you want him to cut some weight or are you good with where he is at?

Bowles: When he came on the visit he was good with where he is, obviously training camp will cut about five pounds off of him. As long as he can carry it and he can move we’re good with that.

Maccagnan: In terms of how he carries his weight he’s a pretty well put together guy. And from that standpoint, if he’s 315 and athletic that should be plenty functional for us.

Q: How critical was the Senior Bowl considering the talent level that he was playing against?

Maccagnan: That’s always a great environment. Obviously, you see a lot of the Division I kids…but when you get a kid that comes from a low level of competition and goes into that environment and you get a chance to see him against better competition than he probably faced in his collegiate tape. From our standpoint, there is always a degree of risk when we’re trying to judge these guys and we’re trying to speculate on how they can develop and perform. But when he goes into those environments and shows very well, that’s what you’re looking for. You don’t want him to go in there and just look like every other guy. He actually did some really good things – we watched all the practice tape on him when we evaluated him.

Q: How uniwue was Shepherd’s path to the NFL?

Maccagnan: Fort Hays State is literally in the middle of Kansas, it’s quite out of the way. When you think about it he went from Fort Hays State to the Senior Bowl which as an accomplishment for a lot of players, from that to get invited to the Indianapolis scouting combine, from that to have a number of teams bring him in for visits, personal workouts and of course eventually get drafted in the third round in the NFL, not every path is the same. The fact he overcame all those things, persevered, has the ability and potential and will now have an opportunity to go out there and be an NFL football player, it’s a nice story.