According to Joel A. Erickson of The New Orleans Advocate this morning, it was revealed that the Saints recently visited with Vanderbilt University linebacker Stephen Weatherly a few weeks ago.
Weatherly, at 6-foot-4, 267 pounds; is thought as the prototypical “hybrid”, being listed as a linebacker but used more as a pass rusher — known as the “Jack” defensive end position in the Saints defense.
His weight mentioned above is pretty interesting, since that was his measurable given at the NFL Scouting Combine; but listed considerably lighter at 250 pounds on Vanderbilt’s official school site.
Sep 13, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Stephen Weatherly (45) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Commodores won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
This could mean that he is trying to bulk up to be able to play strictly more of a pass rusher role along the defensive line, rather than a “traditional” linebacker where he’d be used in coverage.
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Weatherly started as a scout team player at Vandy in 2012 and then earned playing time in 2013; where he had 12 solo tackles, 19 total tackles, 3.5 quarterback sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss.
But in 2014 he had a breakout season and posted career highs in solo tackles (30), total tackles (55), quarterback sacks(4.5), and tackles for a loss (12.5) and even added a touchdown off a 26 yard punt return.
According to Vanderbilt’s site, former player Tim Fugger was the only player since 1998 to register more tackles for a loss (13.5) in a season than Weatherly.
Weatherly’s tackles for a loss in 2014 ranked tenth in the SEC while his punt return was ranked third in the SEC and tenth overall in the NCAA.
Nov 21, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen (10) is sacked by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Stephen Weatherly (45) during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Aggies won 25-0. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
His final season was close to being up there with his sophomore year and he registered 29 solo tackles, 46 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 quarterback sacks as well as two forced fumbles that ended up being ninth overall in the SEC.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein had this to say on Weatherly in a scouting report:
"“Weatherly has the size and overall length to intrigue NFL teams as a developmental prospect, but he will need additional work to become a more competitive pass rusher off the edge. If he can add functional strength while maintaining his closing burst, he may have a role as a backup strongside OLB in a 3-4 with a shot at competing as an eventual starter.”"
Local draft analyst Mike Detillier echoed the same thoughts as Zierlein; and called him a “football puppy” who needs to not only stay in the weight room, but work on his technique and fundamentals as a pass rusher.
Nov 8, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris (3) tries to avoid a sack by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Stephen Weatherly (45) during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Gators won 34-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Both also mentioned that Weatherly is super quick off the ball and comes down hard on a quarterback, but also tends to get tied up with a blocker for more than you’d care for, hence the focus on refining his technique.
His speed was on display at the combine, where he ran a 4.61 40 yard dash and had 23 reps on bench press; which earned him top marks in his group and shows he is trying to add more strength by adding some bulk, while still staying fast.
Currently Weatherly is thought of as late sixth to early seventh round pick in the upcoming draft, with the possibility that he could become an undrafted free agent, which could work well for the Saints if he does…