Two picks down in my 2016 Bengals draft pick profiles, which means I turn my attention to (what I feel is) a rather interesting pick. I’m not going to lie, I was sitting in a local establishment with a few friends watching the Friday night edition of the NFL Draft when I saw the Bengals picked Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State. The television volume wasn’t on, so I couldn’t hear what was said by the commentators; but, I watched the highlight package to get an idea of what we can expect from the new kid.
Initially, I liked what I saw – a fast kid that plays sideline to sideline with a good deal of intensity. That said, I had some reservations. Read previews and profiles on Vigil and they all say that his size is a detriment. Of course, if you read enough about a player – you can start to believe what is written. I started to believe that this pick was a reach, but then I went on the podcast with Mike Goodpaster and Joe Kelly. Joe said that this pick was pure Jim Haslett – comparing Vigil to Greg Biekert. Joe pointed out that Biekert had a solid career playing for Haslett; fitting his system well.
With my interest piqued, I went back and watched more film on Vigil. He is intense, he has good speed (he’s a former high school RB and ran the ball at Utah State). The BYU game is a good demonstration of this versatility. Vigil played 108 snaps as he led the team in both tackles and rushing yards. In an interview following the game, Vigil said that this was a bit of a wrinkle for that game. That said, that was an impressive performance.
First things first, let’s deal with Vigil’s size. “Undersized” seems to be the adjective du jour to describe Vigil. He stands 6’2” and weighs 240 (both combine measurements), small right? Not so fast my friend. Bengals starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is 6’2” 255, just 15 pounds heavier. AJ Hawk was 6’1”, 240 pounds. The NFL’s best linebacker, Luke Kuechly stands 6’3” 235. Mant’i Teo is 6’1” 241. Lawrence Timmons is 6’1” 234. Catching a pattern here? To beat a dead horse here, the average NFL linebacker is 6’2”, 247. While some may question the accuracy of these numbers, suddenly Vigil doesn’t seem so small. This may be a bit cliché, but he plays bigger than he is when watching him on film. He reads plays well and commits to his first instinct. Even if he’s wrong, at least he makes the mistake at 100 miles per hour and busts his butt to get to the ball.
While I like what I see on film, it isn’t all rosy when watching Vigil’s film. He seems to get knocked off balance easily when taking on larger linemen. This could be problematic when Vigil faces larger and more athletic linemen in the NFL. He will have to use his instincts and his speed to keep away from these monsters, which could leave the middle open. If he’s too busy dodging blocks or getting bounced around in the middle, there will be holes for the running backs to exploit.
What should we expect from Vigil in his first year? Definitely special teams, his speed will be very valuable on kick offs and we could see him in the back third of the kickoff team. I also expect to see him get plenty of playing time with the defense. Honestly, it may be tough to keep him off the field in passing downs. Flatly put, Maualuga is a liability in pass situations and Vigil is athletic enough to make a difference in coverage.
Looking to the future, we could be looking at a linebacking corps of Vigil, P.J. Dawson, Burfict, and Vinny Rey. We could see that future on the field this year.
Reach? Undersized? Bad pick? Obviously the jury is out on Vigil and true judgement will need to wait until after his first season.