The Bengals didn't get much out of their 2016 Draft in the group’s rookie year, but Nick Vigil was one of the few picks who played throughout the season.
Vigil, a former All-Mountain West star linebacker for Utah State, was selected with the 87th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. In his senior season, Vigil racked up 144 tackles (sixth-best in the FBS), 13.5 of which were for loss to go with three sacks.
He was also a star at the NFL Scouting Combine, where his 40-yard (4.72), 3-cone (6.73), and 20-yard shuttle (4.0) times were among the best at his position. Despite a big senior season and great combine showing, the selection of Vigil in Round 3 came as a big surprise at the time since few experts had projected him as anything higher than a Round 4-5 prospect.
But the Bengals liked what they saw in the versatile backer and thought he could come in and be one of the team’s more complete backers, even going as far as to liken him to Panthers All-Pro Luke Kuechly. We saw flashes of that in the preseason, which triggered fans to get cautiously optimistic regarding his talent.
"I think he’s going to be a fantastic player in this league," said Darrin Simmons prior to the start of the 2016 season. "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."
Once the regular season began, Vigil found it tough to see much of the field on defense. With Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict, Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga getting most of the snaps, there simply wasn't enough time for Vigil to see the field, especially with nearly every game being close.
Here’s a look at his weekly snap counts on defense from Pro Football Focus:
Not having many blowouts kept him from even getting garbage time snaps, but he did make it onto the field for all 16 games, mostly on special teams, though he would make several stops on passing downs during the final three games.
Vigil would finish his rookie season with 21 tackles, 11 of which came in the final three games when Burfict was in and out of the lineup with a concussion.
As for 2017, like most young guys, Vigil's role will be largely determined based on what happens with the veterans. If Rey Maualuga is a cap casualty and Karlos Dansby isn't re-signed, Vigil could quickly find himself getting a starter's amount of snaps next season.
But if either of those two vets are back, Vigil is right back to fighting for time as long as Burfict and Vinny Rey are healthy. If the Bengals spend a Round 1 or 2 Draft pick on a linebacker, that too could impact Vigil’s role next season. Either way, Vigil is all but locked into a spot on the final roster next season. He’s shown too much promise to be on the bubble, not to mention he’s a third-round pick.
Let’s just hope he lives up to that billing sooner rather than later.