While it's always hard to judge what a player will be in the NFL based on OTAs, Nick Vigil continues to make a great impression on his coaches and teammates.
The Bengals made it clear the second they drafted Vigil that the former Utah State backer was someone they really wanted in this year's NFL Draft. While many draft services projected Vigil to be a Day 3 pick, Cincinnati grabbed him toward the end of Round 3 to the surprise of many.
Then again, if you just look at his numbers from the past two years, Vigil has certainly produced like a guy worthy of a Day 2 selection. This past season, Vigil racked up 144 tackles (sixth-most in FBS), 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. In 2014, Vigil registered 123 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and seven more sacks.
While numbers can't show his quality pass coverage, Vigil was very good in that area in college, and that's one of the aspects of his game that's been on display during OTAs.
"He’s got the same kind of mannerisms," Karlos Dansby said via Bengals.com. "His ability to move around and just show flashes, that’s a good sign coming in as a rookie to be compared to a guy like that."
The good news for Vigil is there are enough quality linebackers on this team that he won't be forced into the lineup, at least while Dansby, Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga and Vinny Rey are good to go. However, Vigil could be poised to make a big contribution on special teams, and that excites special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons.
"I think he’s going to be a fantastic player in this league," said Simmons. "He’s got great movement skills. He can really run and on top of that he’s smart. I can see it in the meetings."
While speed, strength and overall athleticism can largely determine how good an NFL backer is, diagnosing plays, being instinctive and simply knowing what's coming can make even the slowest backer look like Luke Kuechly. That's an area Vigil has also excelled in and is already showing the Bengals as much.
"He makes very few mistakes. Very few," linebackers coach Jim Haslett said. "If he does make one, he doesn’t make it the second time. He’s exactly what we saw on film. We liked him because he was smart and has good speed."
Speaking of Kuechly, Burfict has apparently nicknamed Vigil "Luke," since his game mirrors that of the All-Pro Panthers linebacker.
"It’s just kind of a little joke he calls me. He never calls me by Nick. Just Luke," Vigil said. "One day he just said, ‘Is it alright if I call you Luke?’ I said, ‘Ohhh, whatever,’ and he just started calling me that and that’s how it’s been."
In the Bengals.com story, Geoff Hobson also added that the comparison to Kuechly is something Bengals coaches have already acknowledged on their own.
So far, there have been no surprises. Not even the nickname "Luke," really. The coaches invoked Kuechly’s name shortly after they drafted Vigil.
That's some pretty lofty praise for fresh NFL meat, so Burfict and the coaches must really like what they've seen of Vigil to this point. The way Vigil is being talked about, we should expect to see plenty of him this coming season.