The Vikings 2014 rookie preview continues today with a look at the Vikings first of three seventh round picks, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen. Stephen was the top rated player on the Vikings board when they selected him, and general manager Rick Spielman actually turned down trade offers to ensure he could grab the big man.
Shamar Stephen, DT – Connecticut
Taken in 7th Round, 220th overall by Vikings
Age: 23; Height: 6-5; Weight: 309
40 Yard Dash: 5.23; Bench: 25; Vertical Jump: 30 ½; Broad Jump: 8’7”
2010 Stats (12 games, 8 starts) – 27 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks
2011 Stats (12 games, 0 starts) – 18 tackles, 1 TFL, 0 sacks
2012 Stats (10 games, 9 starts) – 26 tackles, 2 TFL, 0 sacks
2013 Stats (12 games, 12 starts) – 60 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 sacks
*Scouting data primarily provided by Dane Brugler of CBS Sports
Stephen is a big defensive tackle with a good motor that excels at stopping the run. Stephen has an aggressive bull rush to get past offensive lineman, and has good enough pursuit skills to be able to make plays away from the line of scrimmage occasionally.
To make an impact at the next level, Stephen needs to improve his first step off the snap to get a better jump on the ball. He needs to improve his pre-snap awareness to better anticipate what offenses are going to throw at him.
Stephen is very undeveloped as a pass rusher, lacking a solid counter move and often only drawing single blocks on passing downs. The fact that he likely won’t be asked to rush the passer with the Vikings minimizes this weakness, but it’s still something to be aware of in case injuries attack the depth chart.
Stephen had a big year his senior season after nondescript performances his first three collegiate seasons. He will have to show he can sustain the development he showed to stick at the next level.
Spot on the Depth Chart:
Stephen will start at the bottom of the depth chart at nose tackle, behind free agent signee Linval Joseph, veteran Fred Evans, and Chase Baker. While Joseph will be the opening day starter barring injuries, Stephen has a great shot at moving up the ladder and earning some snaps.
Evans is only on a one year contract and Baker has seen limited playing time in his short career, so Stephen could make the defensive tackle rotation if he makes some noise this summer. The team has no reason to be committed to Baker, so Stephen could fit behind Evans for a year before taking over the backup nose tackle role in 2015.
Odds of Making Roster: Possible
The Vikings needed some defensive line depth after free agency this year, especially because Mike Zimmer likes to rotate the defensive lineman in his scheme.
Zimmer’s scheme is all about stopping the run first, which plays right to Stephen’s strengths. The team was high enough on him to not trade down again in the seventh round (which actually isn’t saying that much), so it’s possible they envision a role for him in purple.