With the first of their three seventh-round selections, the Minnesota Vikings added Connecticut defensive tackle Shamar Stephen.
Stephen projects purely as a depth selection for the Vikings. His best position in Mike Zimmer's defense is at nose tackle. With Linval Joseph and Fred Evans already on the roster, his path to playing time is blurry. Both Joseph and Evans play best over the center, so a move to a 3-technique alignment seems unlikely for them. Stephen doesn't have the explosive first step to split gaps and make plays in the backfield, either.
Stephen is a talented player, though, especially for a seventh-round pick. His brute strength gives opponents all kinds of issues at the point of attack. He can fire off the ball with the type of force that gives centers and guards fits.
Against the run, Stephen fits at the nose as a tackle who can plug gaps. He does this by extending his hands and locating the football quickly. If asked to control two gaps or anchor a double-team, Stephen has the power and hand usage to do it. A big body at the point of attack is what he is.
Stephen won't make a ton of plays in the backfield in run defense. Most of his tackles come from lateral pursuit down the line of scrimmage, which he does well for a man of his size.
If a defensive tackle with explosive pass-rush value was what the Vikings were after, they didn't get it. Stephen's repertoire of rush moves consists of a power rush only. He can be effective pressing the pocket from the interior but isn't about to change offensive game plans with his rush ability.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports had this to say about Stephen:
Stephens offers size and power as a run stuffer in the middle, capable of lining up as a nose guard in either alignment. With better use of hands, he could offer something against the pass, as well.
Stephens isn't going to compete for a sack title any time soon but has enough short-area quickness to take advantage of a free lane to harass the quarterback.
Shamar Stephen is going to be in for a battle to make the final roster for the Vikings. He doesn't have any exceptional qualities that separate him from the pack, at least as it relates to the tackles currently on the depth chart. His lack of value for sub-packages, especially in passing situations, also deflates his worth to the team.
Expectations for Stephen should not exceed making the final roster. He is a solid enough player to earn a spot. After that, it's about depth. Hopefully, he develops into the type of interior defender who can replace Fred Evans as the third defensive tackle in 2015. This could be a case of filling a need before it becomes a need.
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