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Werner Pumped To Play For Pagano

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Bjoern Werner displayed his physical prowess at the combine, convincing Colts brass to convert him from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
Bjoern Werner displayed his physical prowess at the combine, convincing Colts brass to convert him from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

It’s now been over a week since the 2013 NFL Draft ended. By now I’m sure you’ve read countless draft grades from all the draft gurus out there (including our own). It’s time to take that one step further.

Beginning today, I will be starting a more in-depth look at each of the Indianapolis Colts draft picks rather than simply slapping on a grade and a brief commentary.

I will be going in order of when each player was drafted, so today I of course begin with Bjoern Werner.

Position/size: Outside linebacker, 6-3, 266.

Collegiate awards: 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year; 2012 Consensus All-American

Collegiate stats:

Year

Total Tkls

TFL

Sack

Int

Yds

Avg

TD

PD

FF

FR

Yds

TD

2010

20

6

3.5

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

2011

37

11

7

1

0

0

0

9

1

1

25

1

2012

42

18

13

0

0

0

0

8

1

1

9

0

Strengths: As you can see from his statistics above, Werner’s production steadily increased each year, meaning he’s constantly improving. His production is very encouraging considering how little experience he has compared to his peers. He also still has a lot of room to improve, which should excite Colts fans.

His stats prove he can do the one thing the Colts desperately need – get after the quarterback. He’s more of a power rusher than a finesse one and he’s also very strong against the run, so he’ll almost certainly line up on the left side of the defense. His physicality and non-stop motor will help toughen up a defense that ranked second-to-last in yards allowed per rush last season and his durability is top notch.

Weaknesses: Although I highlighted his being raw and having a lot of room to improve as a positive, it could also turn into a weakness if the complexities of an NFL defense are too overwhelming for him. The biggest question mark facing Werner will be his ability to transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. We’ve seen this transition work for some players, but the Colts are more familiar with last year’s failed experiment with Dwight Freeney. Werner isn’t super athletic, so the hardest part about his transition will be in pass coverage.

Best case scenario: He becomes another Bryce Paup, who transitioned from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL. Paup racked up 75 career sacks while making four Pro Bowls, winning one First-Team All-Pro selection and taking home the 1995 AP Defensive Player of the Year award.

Worst case scenario: He follows the footsteps of the Colts’ 2010 first-round selection – Jerry Hughes. Hughes also was originally a defensive end who tried to make the switch last season. However, he wasn’t productive in either the 4-3 or the 3-4. He only started seven games during his three-year tenure in Indianapolis while only recording five total sacks and last week, he was traded to the Buffalo Bills.

Realistic expectations: The Colts must remain patient with Werner. If he doesn’t produce right away, they can’t give up hope. As previously noted, he is very raw and has a high ceiling. Combine that with his transition to an outside linebacker and it may take a full year or two before the results start to show. In the meantime, he should succeed as a pass-rush specialist. On obvious passing downs, he could come in either as an outside linebacker to complement Robert Mathis, or he could line up as a defensive end to provide an interior pass rush.

Quotes (from Colts.com): HC Chuck Pagano: “He’s an outside linebacker. (On) first and second down, he’s an edge-setter.  We talk about those guys being able to set the edge in the run game.  He certainly can do that. He’s a dynamic pass rusher.  We knew we needed to address that.  It just so happens we addressed that.  He was the highest-rated player on the board at the time.  We can do a lot of things with this guy … His ceiling is enormous. (At) Florida State, every year he got better.  His numbers got better every year.  He’s still learning.  We feel like he has a very high ceiling.  Obviously, his future is very bright.”

GM Ryan Grigson: “We really look at a player’s ‘play-speed.’ (When) you put on the film, he’s the first guy off the ball every down.  He has great get-off.  His closing speed is excellent.  He’s a guy we think plays fast and plays hard, that’s a great combo.”

Werner: “At Florida State I played a little outside linebacker in a 3-4 package. I love it.  I love it.  I know I can do it.  The coaching staff knows I can do it, and I can’t wait to do it … Oh man, I was so happy (to be drafted by the Colts). It’s one of the best programs out there right now, one of the hottest.  What the coaching staff dealt with last year (was amazing).  Coach Pagano, I connected with him when he worked me out a few weeks ago.  I was wishing they would draft me and then that happened.”