2023 NFL Draft

Evaluating the Value: Wisconsin LB Nick Herbig

The pick is in.

The 2023 NFL Draft is Omar Khan’s first year as the general manager and like in past years we evaluate the value of each pick. Based on projections for each player by draft outlets as well as our own reports we want to see if the pick’s value is above or below how they were ranked coming into the draft.

Round 4 (Pick 132) – Nick Herbig LB Wisconsin

Family matters. No team in the NFL represents that more consistently than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The addition of Nick Herbig adds another set of brothers with Nick joining offseason signee Nate Herbig on the team. Nick Herbig was an outside linebacker at Wisconsin but he is undersized and lacks the length to play outside. A switch inside may be in the cards, and he has said that he is okay with that.

Daniel Jeremiah had him ranked 75th in his Top 150. He did not have a write up on him.

Lance Zierlein at NFL.com gave him a 6.14 grade (Good Backup With The Potential To Develop Into Starter). He commented, “A three-year starter as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Herbig is lacking in size and strength but possesses plenty of athleticism and potential. He can be a slippery rusher with subtle hands and a wicked inside move that leaves tackles in the mud. His lack of play strength limits his speed-to-power rush and his ability to stand his ground against tackles looking to widen him off the mark. He would benefit from a year in the weight room to get ready for NFL edge work, but he might have the instincts and athletic ability for consideration as an off-ball linebacker.”

Dane Brugler had him 79th overall on his Top 100 in his draft guide, The Beast. He was the number 5 inside linebacker and was given a 3rd-round grade. He concluded, “A three-year starter at Wisconsin, Herbig was a stand-up edge rusher in former defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s 3-4 base defense. Accounting for more tackles for loss (36.0) than games played (31) in his career, he was a frequent visitor in the opponent’s backfield and led the Badgers in sacks each of the past two seasons. Despite being undersized, Herbig rushes with the intensity and hand strength of a defensive end to skirt blockers both inside and out. He never shuts down his motor in pursuit, but he is an inconsistent edge-setter and NFL teams won’t hesitate to run at him. Overall, Herbig isn’t built to handle multiple gaps or align in closed areas in the NFL, but he has the explosive get-off, hand usage and backfield instincts to pester quarterbacks. While currently not a true every-down NFL player, his impact will be felt as a sub-rusher and offers additional value if he evolves his off-ball skills.”

CBS.com had Herbig 111th player on its board and the number 17 Edge. They compared him to Tank Carder with a “chance to start” and opined, “The younger brother of lineman Nate Herbig served as a captain for the Badgers in 2022. Nick Herbig has terrific pass-rush production over the past two seasons. He is a fluid athlete with good top-end speed. When he arrives to the ball carrier, he looks to plant them into the ground. Herbig is on the lighter side for his position and struggled to come to balance and finish plays in space.”

I completed our profile on Herbig and was not as high on him as everyone else. I projected him as an inside linebacker and gave him a mid-day three/6th-round grade and stated, “Herbig was a productive pass rusher in college. He has good snap quickness and up field burst and can be slippery around the edge or as the looper on stunts. While he doesn’t have a lot of experience in coverage, he showed good mobility in Zone coverage to get into passing lanes. He has a high motor and will drive through ball carriers with good leg drive when he can.

“Areas to improve include adding play strength as well and becoming more consistent when shedding blocks. Working on improving his coverage ability and his technique while tackling in space will make him more versatile.”

By NFL standards he doesn’t fit as a prototypical pass rusher. He is underweight even at 240 and more troubling is his arm length when facing tackles. His best option would be to make a switch to off-the-ball linebacker but that is no guarantee either. He seems like a player who will put in the work where he needs to become a better player.

Overall, the majority of the opinions of Herbig were good. They acknowledge the size limitations but feel he can make the switch inside. The Steelers grabbing him late in the fourth quarter provides another win for the organization and the selection provides good value.

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