Welcome to "What to Expect 2013". For the next week or so, I'll be looking at the positions the Colts drafted relative to their historic counterparts.
The goal of this series is to set reasonable expectations for the new draft picks based how similarly drafted players in the past decade performed.
This allows us to create fair baselines by which to judge players. The purpose of this series is not to predict performance. As we start with defensive end/outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, keep in mind that the goal is not to say what he'll do. That's impossible.
This series will help us decide what's fair to expect out of him, so that next January we can appropriately evaluate the pick.
Werner was the 24th pick in the draft and will primarily serve as a pass rusher.
Since 2000, there have been 28 defensive ends/linebackers taken between picks 14 and 34 in the draft. Players like Tamba Hali, Luis Castillo and Kyle Vanden Bosch are among the notables.
Measuring these players in terms of games played and started, it's clear that a player drafted in this slot should play immediately. 23 of the 28 players played at least 14 games, and 18 played all 18 games. Just under half of them started at least 9 games on the season, and a quarter of them started 15 games or more.
These kinds of pass rushers were fairly productive right way. Ten of the 28 picked up at least 4.0 sacks in their rookie year. 24 posted at least 1.0 sacks. In terms of tackles, 30 or more would be in the top 10, while 20-30 would be the middle tier.
Seven of the 28 players taken in this range ended up having a season with at least 10 sacks in their career. Three went to Pro Bowls. Of the seven 10-sack players, five of them were in the top-10 in rookie year production, though Vanden Bosch never blossomed until his fourth year the league.
It's also instructive to look at Indianapolis pass rushers historically as well.
The Colts haven't drafted many pass rushers in the last decade, other than the three most notable: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Jerry Hughes. Historically, Duane Bickett, Jon Hand, Donnell Thompson, and Bertrand Berry all qualify.
Also as a side note, there are two names that didn't make Phil B. Wilson's 'worst draft pick' list, but could have been well ahead of the Polian-era names he chose. Shane Curry was a second round pick in 1991, and played nine games and had one sack before being killed. It was fair to leave him off, but Blaise Winter was a second round pick with 15 games played and two sacks for the Colts before being cut. He should have been ahead of Tony Ugoh who was productive in 2007 before regressing.
Jerry Hughes aside, all of these guys ended up having hugely productive careers. We see that they played early, but their production was all over the board. Robert Mathis rarely started as a rookie, but did pick up sacks when he played.
Looking at his best available historical comps, it's possible to set a fair baseline for Werner. If he out-performs the baseline, it's fair to call the pick a year-one hit. If he fails to hit it, it's a year-one miss.
Werner has about a 25% chance of becoming a serious star pass rusher in his career. Those are pretty good odds. While a slow start to his career isn't doom, it does appear that good pass rushers show something early on.
Werner should see action in all 16 games, and he should end up starting at least half the time. We know he'll be in a rotation with Eric Walden, but if he can't take the bulk of the snaps away from him, it will be disappointing.
Werner's pass/fail line should be 4.0 sacks and 30 tackles. If he can produce at that level, he'll be in the top-10 in terms of productive pass rushers taken in the back-half of the first round since 2000.
If he does hit that target, the odds are very good he'll become a 10-sack player in his career. If he doesn't, it's not a career-death sentence, but it might be cause for concern.