Playing linebacker for the Cleveland Browns in 2022 was a hazardous endeavor, even by NFL standards.
Cleveland’s initial 53-man roster featured six linebackers - Anthony Walker Jr., Jacob Phillips, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Sione Takitaki, Tony Fields II and Jordan Kunaszyk. By the end of the season, all but Fields had spent time on the injured reserve list, with Walker (torn quad) and Takitaki (torn ACL) suffering the most serious injuries.
All six of those linebackers are healed, or still in the process of healing, and are currently on the roster for the upcoming season. But given the way things played out last year, it would not be surprising to see general manager Andrew Berry use a selection in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft on another linebacker, even if it is someone who might need a year to get their game in proper order.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig, a First-Team All-Big Ten and Second-Team All-American in 2022.
Name: Nick Herbig
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 240 pounds
College: Wisconsin Badgers
Stats (3 seasons): 31 games, 30 starts, 137 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Relative Athletic Score:
Nick Herbig is a DE prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 7.75 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 363 out of 1606 DE from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/F2wAxBM6Fw #RAS pic.twitter.com/BWA2nZfXsQ— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 5, 2023
Average “Big Board” Position As of Publishing Date
130th overall (NFL Mock Draft Database)
The Draft Network’s Grade/Round Value
TDN Consensus Grade: 74/100 (Fourth-Round Value)
PFF Big Board Rank: 58 (Second or Third Round)
What an Expert is Saying
Pros and Cons
Do you like players who can rush the passer? If so, then you will enjoy Herbig, who picked up pass-rushing grades of 91.1 and 91.4 in the past two seasons from Pro Football Focus.
Herbig also has a variety of moves he uses to stymie blockers, as The Draft Network’s Damian Parson highlights:
As a pass rusher, Herbig shows a good variety of moves to use at the top of his rush. He has an effective cross-chop, dip/rip, bull rush, and a long-arm with speed-to-power conversion. Herbig shows the knowledge of leveraging as a pass rusher. He sells the outside arc very well. He applies pressure to the OT’s outside should/hip, only to cause an overset that allows him space to work back inside to the QB. His hand usage helps to soften angles to easier paths to the QB. He plays with a tremendous motor that never runs cold. Whether as a backside run defender or pass rusher, Herbig chases plays down from behind.
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.
Browns Player Drafting Could Impact
The Browns are set with JOK at one of the linebacker positions, but with seemingly everyone else coming off a major injury or otherwise unproven, just about any linebacker you could name currently on the roster would be in jeopardy of losing a roster spot to Herbig.
Medium: While it seems unlikely that injuries will hit the linebackers at the same rate as they did in 2022, it would also not be prudent for Berry to not address the position come draft weekend.
There is a lot to like about Herbig given his production over the past two years, but the big question about Herbig is just what his position will be at the NFL level. He is too small to play defensive end, so he would be better suited as a linebacker. But his experience in coverage is limited, and while he is athletic it will take some time to adjust to the complexities of that particular aspect of playing defense on Sundays.
If the coaching staff likes the idea of adding another pass rusher and can live with some growing pains in coverage, then Herbig could be a name to watch during draft weekend for the Browns.