The most unheralded pick of the Bengals' 2016 NFL Draft class likely has to be third round selection, Nick Vigil. With a couple of needs staring the team in the face, they decided to take a player with an attribute they seem to value over most any other: versatility.
In Vigil, the Bengals grabbed a rangy player, who had high measurables in many agility drills college prospects undergo in the draft process. It's his ability to play all linebacker positions in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's defense that has the Bengals excited about Vigil's fit in Cincinnati. And, in the third rounder's introductory presser, it sounds as if the feeling is mutual.
"Since I was a freshman I played all four linebacker positions. The first couple of years I was playing, I moved around from inside to outside and back and forth," Vigil said after being selected by the team. "This last year I just played mainly inside linebacker. I’m pretty comfortable at all the positions."
Given the Bengals' history with injuries at the position, a looming Vontaze Burfict three-game suspension, and the departure of another quick-footed linebacker in Emmanuel Lamur, Vigil should be a welcomed addition to the group. Guenther likes to interchange his linebackers based on packages, so Vigil's flexibility fits in with the shifts we often see from Vincent Rey and Burfict.
Ironically, the Green Bay Packers, who often deploy a 3-4 defense, were rumored to be interested in drafting Vigil at the spot right after the Bengals' in the third round. Vigil reiterated his comfort level in Guenther's type of unit, adding: "I think I can play all the linebacker positions in the 4-3. Wherever they see me fitting better and where I can contribute best is I’m sure where they’ll have me."
Though he's not the biggest linebacker by NFL standards, Vigil knows how to seek out ball-carriers and make the tackle. He had 339 of them in three seasons at Utah State, including 40 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in the span. The Bengals feel Vigil could be a sub-package guy with abilities ranging from running with a tight end, to flying off the edge to rush the passer from time-to-time.
Still, most teams look for a third round prospect to have a pretty large initial impact at their primary position, and Vigil, much like first round corner William Jackson III, will have to bide his time. The team brought in Karlos Dansby as a free agent, Rey was re-signed this spring, and the club inked a reunion with Taylor Mays for a nickel hybrid safety/linebacker role.
So, it appears Vigil will be doing some of the dirty work on special teams as he acclimates to the NFL. Fortunately, it's something he often did with the Aggies, so special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, who has frequently run one of the best units in the league, will be relying on Vigil's services early in his career.
"Freshman year I was a special teams starter," Vigil said. "My junior year I played on the kickoff team. And this last year I was on the punt team. So I played all four special teams spots in college."