Stephen Weatherly isn’t going to be drafted in the first round. He likely won’t even go in the second or third either but the former Vanderbilt linebacker’s draft stock seems to be peaking at the right time just before the draft in less than two weeks. Weatherly could’ve gone back to Nashville for one more year but decided to forgo his senior season for the NFL.
At the Combine he turned some heads and had a good showing, especially on the bench press where he threw up 225 pounds 23 times, third best among all linebackers present. At 6’5, 264 pounds Weatherly’s 34 1/2 inch arm length was the longest of all the linebackers in Indianapolis and he was the sixth fastest linebacker with a 4.61 40 time.
At his Pro Day at Vanderbilt last month Weatherly met with the Titans who were said to be interested in him. Tennessee doesn’t have a glaring need for an outside linebacker with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo entrenched as the starters. But since he is coming from a 3-4 defense at Vandy he could be a good fit in the Titans’ 3-4 scheme under Dick Lebeau as a backup.
In the past few weeks Weatherly has visited with the Vikings, Broncos, Raiders, Panthers and Saints. The Vikings aren’t in dire need of an outside linebacker but he could be brought in to add some depth behind Anthony Barr and Emmanuel Lamur. Carolina also is set at linebacker but could be looking for some depth as well. Denver showed in Super Bowl 50 that they have one of the top defenses in the league. Weatherly would have to play special teams or come off the bench if the Broncos took him late.
New Orleans is in need of help in their linebacking corps and porous defense and addressed it in the offseason. Should the Saints not draft a linebacker like Leonard Floyd in the first round Weatherly could be there in later rounds to add some depth to their linebackers and maybe work his way into some significant playing time later in the year. Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha had a decent rookie seasons and with James Laurinaitis as the new middle linebacker in New Orleans we could see the Dome Patrol 2.0 in 2016.
The Raiders might also be a good fit for Weatherly as their defense is on the rise. Oakland is on the verge of being a playoff team and are just a few pieces away from being legitimate contenders in the AFC West. The team signed Bruce Irvin from Seattle to get after the quarterback alongside Khalil Mack who is quietly becoming one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Weatherly would likely be used on special teams and used as a back-up if the Raiders picked him up on the last day of the NFL Draft.
Weatherly will likely get drafted on the last day of the draft. Most draft experts have him projected as a fifth, sixth or seventh round pick. He reminds me of Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson who was drafted in the fifth round in 2014. Williamson worked hard and actually ended the season as a starter. Weatherly won’t be a starting in week one but I expect him to be contributing wherever he lands late in the season.