Ryan Ramczyk and T.J. Watt heard their names called before Vince Biegel in the 2017 NFL draft, but no Badger has done more for Wisconsin football over the last four years than Biegel.
Biegel was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round on Saturday, so he gets to stay in Wisconsin. Here are five things you need to know about him.
Who is Vince Biegel? 5 things to know:
1. He’s Wisconsin born and bred.
Biegel grew up working on a cranberry marsh near Wisconsin Rapids and has never been shy about his pride in Wisconsin. By “never been shy,” we mean he literally shaved the Wisconsin motion ‘W’ into his head.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 20, 2014
Biegel is a big believer in the help that blue-collar roots can give a football player, which he expanded upon in a Players Tribune essay he wrote before his senior year. Now a member of the Packers, Biegel gets to carry on that Wisconsin pride.
2. He broke out early and has held steady since.
Biegel established himself as one of Wisconsin’s top pass rushers in his sophomore year and averaged 38.3 tackles, 9.2 tackles for loss and 4.7 sacks per season from 2014-16. He earned All-Big Ten honors in each of those years: second team in 2014, third team in 2015, and a split between second and third team in 2016. He was one of Wisconsin’s most visible and vocal leaders, an asset that helped the unit transition smoothly from defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to Justin Wilcox. All of those assets should help him in the NFL, which is a good thing since his incredible hair won’t be helping him.
3. He’s been a star at Wisconsin, but never quite THE star.
Biegel’s career at Wisconsin has been an interesting case study of what constitutes a star. He ranks in Wisconsin’s top 10 in both career sacks and tackles for loss, yet he never led the Badgers in either of those categories. Instead, he came in behind Derek Landisch in 2014, Joe Schobert in 2015 and T.J. Watt in 2016. It’s the defensive equivalent of Super Bowl hero James White’s path with the Badgers after his freshman year. Despite working behind Montee Ball in 2011 and 2012 and Melvin Gordon in 2013, White finished as the No. 5 rusher in Wisconsin history.
This might be more of a testament to Wisconsin’s wild success in developing outside linebackers under Dave Aranda and Tim Tibesar than a knock against Biegel, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Biegel never quite made the leap that everyone expected after his first good year.
4. Wisconsin missed him when he had a foot injury.
Given its brutal schedule and the loss of Aranda, Wisconsin had a superb 2016 season, which included an outside shot at the College Football Playoff heading into the Big Ten Championship Game (which, true, did not go well). But before that unpleasantness on Dec. 3, Biegel’s health was one of the biggest what-ifs in the Big Ten. Biegel missed Wisconsin’s two regular-season losses — back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State with a bye-week thrown in — with a foot injury. While the defense didn’t buckle without Biegel, he certainly had the ability to make a difference in a pair of agonizingly close games.
What’s more important going forward is the possibility that the foot injury might have hindered Biegel when he was on the field, as he didn’t record a sack until four games after his return, against Purdue. If Biegel really was hindered for most of the season by injury and a higher level of talent is hidden under the on-field results, he could be one of the steals of the draft.
5. He looked good at the Senior Bowl and combine, but isn’t a freakish athlete
Biegel was a good enough athlete in the Big Ten, but the NFL could be another story. He performed well at the Senior Bowl, but didn’t set himself apart at the NFL combine. So yeah, he’s not going to blow you away athletically. But we’ve seen this movie before. A Wisconsin player who doesn’t post an eye-popping 40-yard dash or vertical jump, but clearly has the instincts and motor of a pro. Joe Schobert, Rick Wagner, Chris Borland, Kevin Zeitler, we could go on. Wisconsin has consistently shown it can churn out legitimate NFL players from less-than-5-star roots, and there is no reason to think Biegel will be an exception.