Minnesota Vikings 2016 NFL Draft: Adding Stephen Weatherly to the Mix

“As we started getting into the seventh-round coach Zimmer got on me about let’s get some bigger guys in here.”

The words from Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman as he gave his post draft press conference, as day-three of the draft concluded. It’s not often the employee gives orders to the boss, but such was the case here as Spielman jumped all over the long and athletic Stephen Weatherly from Vanderbilt with the teams very next pick.

Even as just a seventh-round pick, there is plenty of reason to be excited about Weatherly’s potential inside Zimmer’s defense.

Weatherly caught the Vikings attention while playing in the SEC, where he posted 22 tackles for loss and nine sacks standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker during his final two years of play. This led to defensive line coach Andre Patterson to do some further digging where he found Weatherly was a base defensive end in a 4-3 defense as a freshman prior to Vanderbilt’s new defense being implemented in 2014.

Patterson and the front office were intrigued enough to invite Weatherly into their “top-30 visits”, which teams use to get a first hand look and workout specific prospects. Looking back, getting himself in front of the coaches and scouts was the best thing he could do as Weatherly was able to show off his outstanding size and gaudy length for all to see.

Add it all together and you’ve got a low-risk high reward prospect in Weatherly

Weatherly’s 34 ½” arms and 83 ¼” wingspan were some of the largest and longest among his peers.  To put that into perspective, when I attended the Senior Bowl weigh-in it was offensive tackle Le’Raven Clark who had the best length of all 110 attendees with 36 ⅛” arms and 85 ¾” wingspan.

However, it wasn’t just Weathley’s long reach that helped him stick out, it was his surprisingly quick 4.61 speed for 6’4” 267 pound big man as well as his 23 bench reps at the combine, which ranked first amongst his positional group.

Even with Weatherly’s rare combination of athleticism however, there was no confusion as to where Zimmer would line him up once the practices were underway.

Spielman spoke with great confidence about his potential as an edge-rusher reverting him back into a defensive end with his hand in the dirt. “He has the length, has the size, and has the speed.. He will need some refinement from a technical standpoint, but he has a lot of upside as a pass-rusher in a 4-3 defense,” Spielman reiterated.

Even as just a seventh-round pick, there is plenty of reason to be excited with Weatherly’s potential inside Zimmer’s defense.

Strictly from a pure physical standpoint, Weatherly has far more upside than any of the other late round fliers the team has drafted before him, inside the front-seven like Brandon Watts, BJ. Dubose, and Edmond Robinson.

All the physical attributes aside it’s hard not to appreciate the hardworking nature and talented background Weatherly brings to the table outside of football too. Weatherly stunned the local media during his initial phone conference and was forced to repeat himself on more than one occasion after he stated he had played six musical instruments, and picked up another two after high school.

When you go on to learn his grandma graduated from Harvard and MIT, it doesn’t surprise you to learn Weatherly was the captain of his championship robotics team in his spare time as well (yeah, that club where you build those badass robots).

Add it all together and you’ve got a low-risk high reward prospect in Weatherly, who has the long arms and reach to set the edge against the run, and the physical explosiveness and bend to reach the backfield (27 tackles for loss in 21 SEC starts).

Zimmer asked for another toy to develop opposite of Danielle Hunter and Spielman obliged, as they continue to build and groom a winning roster for both the present, and future, in any way they can.


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