When the Minnesota Vikings hired Mike Zimmer to be their new head coach, it became clear that rebuilding a weak defense would be a main focus. Of the Vikings’ ten selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, seven addressed defensive talent or depth issues. After opting not to re-sign defensive tackle Kevin Williams, at least to this point, the Vikings selected former Connecticut defensive tackle Shamar Stephen in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
Stephen has an absolutely massive frame, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 309-pounds. With this physical frame, Stephen draws a strong comparison to new Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 328-pounds. While Stephen is not as fast or athletic, he nearly mirrors Joseph in terms of physical tools and frame.
In his senior season at Connecticut, Stephen was highly productive. He produced 60 total tackles, which included ten tackles-for-loss and three sacks. With that said, Stephen was the definition of a “clogger” at the line of scrimmage. Stephen also possesses intangibles that coaches love, including leadership skills, football intelligence and a high motor. He has received praise from his teammates and coaches for consistently finishing plays and being almost impossible to take off the field.
While Stephen represents a value pick in the seventh round, he will still have to fight to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster in 2014. Since Joseph and Shariff Floyd will more than likely be the Vikings’ Week 1 starters at defensive tackle, Stephen will compete for a backup role. He will compete against veterans Fred Evans, Chase Baker and Tom Johnson along with rookies Kheeston Randall and Isame Faciane for a roster spot and playing time.
Given his NFL-frame, versatility and near-elite run-stopping abilities, Stephen should make the Vikings’ 53-man roster. As a result, he will likely receive snaps in relief of Joseph on and off throughout the 2014 season. Stephen may also see playing time in goal line packages and typical running situations as added defensive line bulk.
At this point in his career, Stephen possesses the physical traits and shows flashes of impressive abilities but lacks refinement. Further down the road he may prove to be an asset to the Vikings, but for now he will simply be a project for Zimmer to work on. Expect Stephen to either have a minimal role on the 53-man roster or spend his 2014 season on the Vikings’ practice squad refining his raw skills.