football Edit

Wisconsin LB Nick Herbig Drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 4

MADISON, Wis. – Nick Herbig dropped a pick-six interception in his first collegiate game in 2020, prompting then-defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard to threaten to send the true freshman back to his native Hawaii. The staff sang a different tune for the remainder of the outside linebacker’s career.

Starting all 31 games he played, Herbig declared for the NFL Draft following a junior season after being named a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick, as well as a second-team All-American by Water Camp and the AFCA.

On Saturday, he officially became a drafted NFL player, as Herbig was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 4 (pick 132). The Badgers have now had at least one former linebacker drafted in eight of the last 10 NFL Drafts.

Former Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig.
Former Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Herbig showed signs of becoming a standout player after dropping that interception, finishing the truncated 2020 COVID season with 26 tackles, six TFLs, a sack and a forced fumble in his rookie season, and became that player in 2021, as he ranked fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (9.0) and seventh in tackles for loss (14.5). nine sacks.

Largely due to his size, Herbig has spent the offseason preparing to move to off-ball linebacker.

“I'm honestly excited about it,” Herbig said at the Badgers’ pro day. “I’ve played outside linebacker almost my whole career, so just learning something new, diving into something new, getting a fresh start, it's exciting to me. I get to try something out and attack it with everything I got.”

“I want to prepare for everything, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Herbig said. “All I know is I can control what I can control, and I’m going to be ready for whatever comes.”

In addition to his junior season numbers (leading the nation with 11.0 sacks in 11 games and 18th nationally with 15.5 tackles for loss), Herbig tested well at both the NFL Scouting Combine (4.65 40-yard dash, 1.59 10-yard split, 25 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press) and UW’s Pro Day (9-6 broad jump, 34-inch vertical leap) to show he has the ability to play in space.

Pro Football Focus listed Herbig as one of the draft’s 10 most underrated players, citing his ability as a pure pass-rusher despite his smaller stature. He registered a 91.1 pass-rush grade and posted a 23.9% pass-rush win rate during his junior season. In addition, he racked up 11 sacks along with 17 hurries and six QB hits. He recorded a 40.9 percent win rate against true pass sets, fourth-best in the nation among players with at least 150 pass rush snaps.

“I honestly think I bring a lot of versatility to the table,” Herbig said. “I can play off the ball, I can play on the ball. You know I'm used to going against big, big dudes all the time. So, I think I'm very versatile.”

While his draft projections were all over the place because of the varying ways his skills could be evaluated, one advantage he had was an intimate knowledge of a pro-style defense, thanks largely to Leonhard’s tutelage, how his 3-4 scheme mirrors what many NFL teams run, and how the former Wisconsin coach and 10-year NFL veteran is viewed in professional coaching circles.

“Whatever happens with my career, I know I am going to attack it day by day,” Herbig said, “and I’m just going to keep on getting better.”

“Doesn’t really matter where I go or what team drafts me,” Herbig later added. They’ll give me a chance and that’s all I need. That’s all I’m asking for. I never asked for much in my life, man. Just need an opportunity to show what I got.”

Herbig joins Zack Baun (New Orleans), Vince Biegel (Baltimore), Leo Chenal (Kansas City), Ryan Connelly (Minnesota), T.J. Edwards (Chicago), Jack Sanborn (Chicago), Andrew Van Ginkel (Miami), and T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh) as former UW linebackers in the pros.

Herbig's Strengths, per

More than 26 percent of his career tackles resulted in lost yardage.

Fluid inside move fueled by long, easy strides.

Excellent lower body flexion to dip and flatten into the pocket.

Finds second gear to close and finish quarterbacks.

Plays with good pre-snap recognition of hazards.

Uses hands effectively to stay clean and pursue the football.

Cross-faces tackle and disrupts run plays into the B-gap.

Good agility and change of direction in coverage space.

Herbig's Weaknesses, per

Angular frame will require additional muscle mass.

Below average play strength and ruggedness at the point of attack.

Unable to sink and set a firm edge.

Lacks lower body strength to push through redirection.

Speed-to-power rush fizzles out.

Would benefit from varied entry angles and tempos as a rusher.


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