Linebacker Nick Vigil knows what to do with the ball in his hands.
It was Throwback Friday Night for the Bengals in the NFL Draft.
In the second round they drafted a confident wide receiver who routinely called himself "great," and in the third round they took a down-hill linebacker who can play all three downs and all three spots in the Bengals 4-3 defense.
But Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd at No. 55 and Utah State linebacker Nick Vigil at No. 87 are going to be very current on this depth chart. Boyd has a very real chance of being the Opening Day slot receiver and Vigil is going to be projected as one of the six linebackers active for games.
New linebackers coach Jim Haslett, who is known as "Old School," after his nine-year NFL career at linebacker ended nearly 30 years ago, thought the 6-2, 240-pound Vigil jumped off the tape.
"The way he ran the field. He played sideline-to- sideline," Haslett. "He did a lot of things for them. He played running back. He rushed. The guy's got good speed and he's got a good feel."
The third round was a cakewalk compared to the second for the Bengals, although some pundits (NFL.com) thought Vigil was a reach in the third even though word was the Packers were going to pick him right after the Bengals and then picked his Utah State teammate.
On Saturday (noon-NFL Network), the last four rounds, as always, are a hodgepodge. They'd probably like to find another receiver and pick up a safety and defensive linemen. But they probably figure they're playing with house money the rest of the way after they picked Boyd. The Bengals needed to get a receiver in the second round because they're not that high on a lot of them and Boyd was the last of the six they had graded to go in the first or second.
They briefly searched for a trade partner with Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas hanging around as they neared the 50th pick, but no one was calling back or wanted too much.
When they picked Boyd, he sounded as confident as another wide receiver they picked in the second round. Chad Johnson.
"I'm really happy and appreciative that the Cincinnati Bengals chose a great player like myself," Boyd said. Asked about the best part of his game he said, "I just create opportunities for myself to win. I put myself in the position to win. I put myself in the position to run good routes and beat defenders with my leverage and keep plays alive. I'm a huge playmaker."
And asked how he rated himself as a blocker he fired out," would say a 6.5, just because I'm not as bulky as everybody thinks I am. But my hard-nosed instincts to be a football player and my willingness to do things to help my team win are at a high level. So I'm going to definitely give everything that it takes and sacrifice my body to help anybody on the team create a huge play."
Probably not what fellow Pittsburgh native Marvin Lewis had in mind when he told Boyd on the phone in the draft room that it was time to go to work and he asked about his steel mill mentality.
Some of the pundits are down on Boyd's 4.5 40s and the fact he never seemed to run a route beyond seven yards of the line of scrimmage. But the Bengals are very high on his three seasons of productivity and the varying ways he put up the yards.
He's got experience returning punts and kicks, but the Bengals don't seem to be envisioning that for him. They think his strength is in the slot and the guy does have electrifying moves.
"You've got to watch a lot of film to see what he does without the ball. He's going to do it our way, I guarantee you that," Urban said. "He's willing, he's willing. He just wasn't asked to do a lot of those things that we're going to ask him to do. There will be a learning curve there. But we have full confidence that he'll do that, and we're going to push him to do things our way."
With the 87th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the #Bengals select Nick Vigil from Utah State
Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was a staunch supporter of Boyd and was a persuasive voice who believes Boyd's attributes in the slot continue to allow the Bengals to exploit their pair of Pro Bowlers, wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert.
"The thing that stuck out to me was his football instincts — his ability to separate sideways and laterally from "defenders," Zampese said. "You get a chance to see him do a lot of different things because they got it to him in a lot of different ways — handing it, throwing it. He threw the ball. You got to see everything that the guy has, which is nice to know.
"Sometimes you don't get to see all those things. So we have a good idea of what he is. We have a pretty good idea of where we can take him. He's certainly not a finished product, but he's ours and we like him. We're going to drag him and push him and make him compete, and drive him to where we think he can be."
They won't have to do that for the 6-2, 240-pound Vigil. In fact, they believe he's league ready after what he did in a similar 4-3 scheme in college. He had 267 tackles the last two seasons, 30 tackles for loss, and 20 sacks as a middle backer in base. And he kicked out to WILL baker on third down. Which is why Guenther and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett love the kid.
They didn't worry about losing a receiver like the previous two rounds, when they mulled trading up. In the third round they just let the board come to them.
"He's a fit for us. There are certain players, you say, 'Eh, it may take this guy a year.' But this guy's done it, " Guenther said. "It's on tape. The evidence is there. It's the same front that we play. So I would say, yes, he's going to come in and pick it up fairly quick."
He even reminds them of He Who Should Not Be Named.
"He's got great movement. Like I said, he can go sideline to sideline. He has great instincts for the ball and he knows when to go downhill." Haslett said. " Is he a killer tackler? I think he's a good enough tackler to get them down. I don't think he's going to look like Vontaze (Burfict) or Rey (Maualuga), but I don't think too many do. What the process was, I looked at him first, made a big cut-up, a long tape. And then we go in as a staff and look at it. First thing Paul said, 'That looks like that guy.' And I said, 'Yeah, he kind of does look like that guy.'"
That guy, of course, is Carolina Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
"I mean running-wise and athletic-wise, he jumps out at you like that.," Haslett said.
"That's what coaches like to do; they like turn on a player on tape and compare him to somebody they've seen before," Guenther said. "Everybody does it; it's natural. The scouts do the same thing, everybody does it. He is his own player and obviously coming in here, he's going to have to work his butt off for a chance."
Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is a happy man. The fastest his backers are, the better. Vigil even carried the ball 41 times in his career with three TDs in his own package as a running back on the goal line and short yardage.
"I think those days are over," Vigil said. " Thank goodness, because I wasn't very good at running back."
But he sure is good at linebacker. And the Bengals plan to use him there whenever they can. Especially on passing downs if they get a chance to ease him in.
"I actually hadn't even talked to anyone from Cincinnati from the combine all the way on," Vigil said. " I didn't have conversations with anyone from Cincinnati. Maybe a scout or something here and there. They were a team I didn't really think I had chance to be drafted by. It was a surprise to me."
That really is a Throwback.
But they should be front and center for a long time.