Something about guys that don’t run well at the combine appeals to Ryan Grigson. Last year, he snagged Dwayne Allen and Vick Ballard, two prospects whose stock dropped after their 40 times disappointed the stopwatch crew.
Those guys turned out pretty well, so there was no reason for Grigson to be deterred by Bjoern Werner’s pedestrian 4.83 clocking this year. The German-born outside linebacker from Florida State drafted No. 24 overall Thursday has all the requisite qualities to upgrade the Colts’ pass rush and playmaking.
“He’s a hell of a football player, 13 sacks, ACC Player of the year, you turn on the film and he jumps off the screen at you,” said Grigson. “He’s one of those guys you watch and you say he’s not going to be there.
“You take the combine with a grain of salt. It’s a factor but you can’t let a great player slide by you because he didn’t blow out his 40 time.”
ESPN’s dueling analysts had differing opinions on Werner. As you might expect, Mel Kiper put more stock in the measurable, while Jon Gruden – like Grigson – liked what he saw on film.
“Didn’t run as well as people thought, only ran a 4.83 at the combine,” Kiper said. “Remember, four of his sacks came against Murray State, a I-AA opponent early early in the year. He is an athletic kid, he does have very good upper body strength and he has what we always call upside potential.”
“Very aware, active, incredible factor grade,” Gruden said. “This kid batted down 16 passes. That’s what J.J. Watt does. If you’re a disinterested right tackle or a tight end that doesn’t block, Werner will beat you up. High-effort player, I love his motor. He did not test very well at the combine. … But when you watch tape you feel some of these collisions.”
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock offered a more neutral opinion.
“He is one of those guys that does everything well, but nothing great,” Mayock said. “He will thrive in head coach Chuck Pagano’s system.”
A number of surprises ahead of the Colts pushed a handful of unexpected players onto their board, including West Virginia’s Geno Smith. But Grigson eschewed the opportunity to auction off the highly regarded quarterback in exchange for multiple lower-round picks because of Werner’s availability.
“We really didn’t want anything to do with (trading back),” Grigson said. “He was who we wanted, and that’s who we got. … After the Minnesota pick (the Vikings took defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 23) it was the high-fives and the things you want to be feeling. … as this process was winding down, Bjoern was the guy we really had the itch for, and we got him.”
A late-bloomer, Werner started playing flag football in Germany when he was 12, and shifted to tackle football two years later. He traveled to the United States to pursue his dream of playing college football and wound up a first-round pick.
So he’s a quick study, in addition to everything else.
The Colts view him as an every-down player who can contain the run and disrupt the pass, both as a rusher and with his penchant for deflections. Of course, this is why we thought they spent $16 million on Erik Walden, but there’s plenty of time to see how that sorts itself out.
“He’s got some special traits, he’s got a high motor, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a great get-off,” said Coach Chuck Pagano. “He’s been rushing the passer for a long time at Florida State.
“There’s a lot of things we can do with this guy. The simplest is to line him up opposite Robert (Mathis) and say ‘sick ‘em’.”
Werner could hardly contain his excitement at being drafted by the Colts.
“I knew I wasn’t going to run the fastest 40,” he said. “I know what I can do. I can get off the ball, that’s all I need. I’m a coachable guy and I can’t wait for the coaches to coach me up and learn the new playbook. Everything is over, I know I’m a Colt and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to be there and start rookie minicamp.”
Maybe he wasn’t born to run, but the Colts are convinced he was Bjoern to rush.