(Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports)
With the 24th pick in the first round the Colts selected Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. Coach Chuck Pagano has stated he will play outside linebacker for the Colts but that is about the least interesting factoid from the first night of the draft.
Werner is notably German and as ESPN points out the last likely player to ever be drafted that can be considered a product of NFL Europe. Werner grew up dreaming of being a soccer player but his size and affinity for American football drove him to try something new:
"We were a soccer family," Bjoern says. "My dad played soccer, watched it like people in America watch football every weekend, you know what I'm saying? Both my brothers played soccer, everyone. I mean, I love soccer; I played it, too."
There was just one problem: Bjoern — bigger and heavier and a head taller than all the other kids — wasn't built like a soccer player. "Soccer is hard on your ankles, you know?" he says. "Even at a young age, I was getting a lot of sprained ankles. Then one time, I broke my foot."
He was only 10 years old, but the injury, Bjoern says, marked a turning point. For a year and a half, he had to stop playing soccer and even table tennis, at which he'd been a standout for a club team. Then, at about the time he was fully healed, a pal who belonged to Berlin Eagle (an American-football club) made a suggestion. "You can throw the ball," the kid said, "you can catch it, you're real athletic. Why don't you join the flag football team?"
Werner's time in the United States has not been without challenge. He made his first attempt in the States as a teenager at a prep school but found himself homesick and returned to his native Berlin. After being recruited by Florida State Werner, now married, finally found the courage and strength to commit to the game.
Werner went on to start as a true freshman and continued to grow into a premier pass rusher. In three seasons for the Seminoles he starred in a top-10 defense and compiled 23.5 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss along the way. His innate physical abilities are unquestioned as his exceptional football IQ. It was only his lackluster combine performance that drove his stock to the lower first round.
On tape however Werner stacks up well and scouting reports reflect that productivity. Walter Football concurs that Werner is an exceptional athlete but suspects he won't be an elite outside linebacker due to a lack of explosive speed:
As a pass-rusher, Werner can beat tackles with power or speed. He beats slower right tackles with his first step and has enough speed to turn the corner. Werner also has the strength to shed blocks and cut to the inside. He additionally has nice pursuit skills once he gets free of his blocker.
Werner should continue to refine and add to his pass-rushing moves for the NFL. He has the strength for an effective bull rush, club move and rip move. From a speed perspective, Werner would be better off going against right tackles, but against weaker left tackles, he could overpower them.
Overall, Werner has a nice skill set, is well-rounded and will give excellent effort. He doesn't have elite speed or power, but he should be a starter and productive player during his NFL career. Werner looks like a solid first-round pick as a base end in a 4-3 defense.
Many pundits will question the team's selection of Werner but they clearly lacked a premier pass rusher behind Robert Mathis. While Mathis had an exceptional season last year the tread on the tires won't last forever and it was time to give him a suitable replacement for Dwight Freeney on the opposite side. Werner, despite his relative lack of experience, fits that bill. He'll have a bit of time to develop given the addition of Erik Walden but the team appears to have great confidence in their new international star.