A large cross-section of fans supporting both the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers united in joy on Saturday morning when general manager Ted Thompson drafted outside linebacker Vince Biegel with first pick of the fourth round (108th overall).
Biegel, a Wisconsin Rapids native, stayed in the state to attend UW. He became a force on defense and a thorn for opposing offensive linemen in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme. His character off the field was shown as well, with his teammates electing him team captain during the 2016 season.
Now he takes his talents to the hallowed halls of Lambeau Field, following the likes of fellow Badgers Mark Tauscher, Bill Ferrario, and Jared Abbrederis in being drafted by the Packers.
It seems easy to say many were thrilled that Biegel, the home-state kid from Wisconsin Rapids and son of a cranberry farmer, was drafted by the Packers. Yet he also fills a need as an edge player in Dom Capers’s defense. How do you feel they’ll utilize him in their defensive schemes?
Though fourth-round picks rarely contribute as primary pass-rushers during their rookie year, such a role doesn’t seem unrealistic for Biegel in Green Bay. The offseason departures of Julius Peppers and Datone Jones leave plenty of snaps up for grabs.
More specifically, Biegel could see extensive action at the right outside linebacker. Clay Matthews, the team’s starting “Sam” backer could spend more of his time off the ball and see his total snap count reduced to account for his declining skill set. That should create opportunities for Biegel and others to see the field more on defense.
Down the line, the Packers could move Biegel between the edge and off the ball, the same tactic implemented with Matthews. From that spot, Biegel can rush the passer from inside as well as provide added girth against the run. If and when his role evolves depends on how quickly he assimilates into Dom Capers’s scheme.
After Biegel was drafted, what did the Packers say about the Badgers captain and their reasons for selecting him?
While the Packers don’t often reveal much during their press conferences during the draft, a few points stuck out. Senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith specially mentioned Biegel’s versatility, reinforcing the notion that he could play multiple linebacker spots in time. Highsmith also explained away Biegel’s sack production as a function of the quick-passing offenses Wisconsin faced during his collegiate career.
However, Highsmith cautioned against direct comparisons between Biegel and Matthews. While the two tested similarly in certain areas during their respective combines, Matthews’s burst distinguishes the two as prospects.
Do you expect Biegel to receive immediate playing time (or the chance to play immediately) at outside linebacker, and who will he need to supplant in the depth chart to receive snaps?
I expect him to play a handful of snaps to start the year with that figure increasing as he gains comfort. Unless the Packers move Matthews inside full-time as they did for parts of 2014 and ‘15, I don’t see Biegel starting other than as an injury replacement. Still, he could reasonably beat out Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott for playing time given his athletic advantages.
Being in-state and watching the team, I know some of the history with the Packers’ draft picks and successes/failures. What’s been the recent trend in drafting defensive players over the past few years, and also Green Bay’s track record with their recent fourth-round picks?
When it comes to defenders, the Packers have enjoyed more success of late on Day 3 than the previous two days of the draft. The lack of success for early picks like Jones, Jerel Worthy, Quinten Rollins, and others has certainly rankled fans, but the team has still managed to find field-tilters elsewhere in the draft.
Davon House became a key piece to the secondary after arriving in 2011 as a fourth-round pick, and he rejoined the team this offseason after a two-year sojourn with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another fourth-rounder, Mike Daniels has established himself as the team’s most consistent defensive presence over the past three seasons. Micah Hyde, Jake Ryan, and Blake Martinez also became regular or occasional starters.
Biegel has a decent chance to become the next such success story. He has a relatively uncluttered path to playing time, and possesses the athletic traits that tend to translate in the Packers’ defense. He probably doesn’t have Pro Bowls in his future, but he doesn't have to develop into a star to make a significant impact in Green Bay.
Lastly—and we may have to wait a bit for an answer, as Biegel mentioned on his conference call—but do you prefer mullet or no mullet?
The mullet is the only correct answer, and it’s bigger than just the aesthetics of a linebacker with hair flowing out of the helmet. David Bowie wore a glorious mullet for much of his life, a figurative beacon of light in dark times
And who has worn the mullet since? The Michael Boltons. The Mel Gibsons. The Billy Ray Cyruses. We must accept the uncomfortable truth: The mullet has become the iconography of the enemy.
Can Biegel reclaim the mullet? Can he restore it to its former glory? Will Jared Allen sue for trademark infringement?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. But the throne is there, if only Biegel wishes to claim it.