As I'm sure you all know by now, the Indianapolis Colts selected Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Having allowed Dwight Freeney to leave in Free Agency, the team was crying out for a pass rusher – even after the frivolous signing of Green Bay's Erik Walden and the addition of Lawrence Sidbury from the Atlanta Falcons.
Regardless of the need for some edge rushing help, I was fairly surprised when Roger Goodell announced that Bjoern Werner was the 24th pick of the draft, and was heading to Indianapolis. When evaluating Werner before the draft, I had strong concerns over his ability to play anything other than 4-3 defensive end. Whilst at Florida State, Werner mostly played with his hand in the dirt, making his fit in Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense slightly obscure.
However, GM Ryan Grigson and Pagano himself put Werner through a workout, including linebacker drop drills. They came away suitably impressed, and felt comfortable enough to draft him to play the SAM linebacker position, or even the WILL position if/when Robert Mathis leaves the team.
Mike Mayock compared Werner to Paul Kruger, who played under Pagano in Baltimore, and projects well as someone who will eventually offer 8-10 sacks a season as a complimentary pass rushing option. Here's some tape from Werner's time with Florida State to try and understand what kind of player the Colts are getting.
The first shot from the game against Wake Forest shows Werner lined up at left defensive end in a four man front.
Werner has earned a reputation for demonstrating an explosive get off and snap recognition, and this was on show from this play, as you see Werner explode out of his stance to attack the quarterback.
Werner's burst gives him an instance advantage over the right tackle, and then the German shows the ability to bend and turn the corner and pressure the quarterback.
Werner's ability to bend and get low allows him to get free of the right tackle, and makes a key sack for the Seminoles.
When Werner was drafted, Pagano stated that Werner could "set the edge". This is a term that we've heard an awful lot over the past few months, as the mantra of "run the ball, stop the run" has been forced down our throats repeatedly. Werner has some run stopping ability, and it showed in the same game.
Werner is again playing with his hand in the ground, but is out of his stance quickly. He quickly diagnoses the run play, and get a strong push on the blocker to disengage.
Werner managed to keep his outside shoulder free, allowing him to prevent the outside run play. Werner makes a tackle against the run, which is going to be crucial for the Colts, given Pagano's philosophy.
Another facet to Werner's game is his ability to anticipate the release of the ball, get his hands in the air and swat the ball down. This type of quality has been in the spotlight over the past couple of seasons, as J.J. Watt's ability to swat the ball became vitally important for the Houston Texans.
The play starts with Werner lined up at left defensive end, as usual.
Werner rushes round the outside but slows his rush down in order to get in the line of the throw. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas releases the ball, only for Werner to get his hands in the way of the ball and force a third down. This is only a short example of Werner's swatting ability, but both Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano mentioned the ability in the post-draft press conference.
These plays demonstrate the various ways that Werner can be a factor for the Colts – by pass rushing, stopping the run and swatting. I still have a number of question marks over his ability to drop in coverage though, as whenever he stood up in Florida State's defense, it was simply to rush the quarterback. Pagano and Grigson believe that Werner will be able to drop back in coverage to a sufficient level, but having seen one 4-3 defensive end in Dwight Freeney struggle to convert last season, there is reasonable logic to be worried about Werner's fit too.
As for Werner's instant role with the team, I'd expect Werner to be used in rotation with Erik Walden to begin with, but I'd be stunned if the German didn't finish the season as the starter at SAM linebacker. It's not a particularly flashy pick and comes attached with some question marks, but Werner impressed on tape – and he's still learning.