It’s time for another installment of my “2013 NFL Mock Draft Analysis!” On Monday, Josh Hill of Fansided.com unveiled his new and updated 2013 Mock Draft. In his Mock, Hill projected the following player to be selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with their 1st Round pick:
Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
The Steelers all of a sudden need a wide receiver but if Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin are off the board, Pittsburgh will go back to focusing on rejuvenating an aging offensive [I think Hill meant defensive] line. Werner is a speedy pass rusher who can give the Steelers an edge rushing presence they’ll need moving forward. Werner will fit nicely on the line especially given the fact that the Steelers have shown an interest in moving Ziggy Hood to nose tackle, and for some reason teams like the Steelers always get lucky and have players like Werner fall to them.
First of all, let me say that I disagree with Hill’s idea that Werner (6’3″ 266 lbs.) would fit as a defensive end in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme. The Florida State pass-rusher possesses neither the frame nor the ability to man 2-gaps in the run game to play the 5-technique position in a 3-4 scheme. In my opinion, it would be an utter waste of the former Seminole’s pass-rushing skills to play him out of position in that manner. Someone should remind Hill that the outside linebackers in LeBeau’s scheme provide the pressure and pocket collapse, and the defensive ends are the ones responsible for maintaining gap-control at the point of attack.
Heck, the only thing that would be as big of a waste as making Werner a defensive end would be if the Steelers tried to force a gap-shooting 4-3, 3-technique defensive tackle like Ziggy Hood to play as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Oh wait?! That actually happened, and we have all seen how that experiment has worked out: not well.
Although I might disagree with Hill’s idea that Werner should be a 5-technique, I would be happy if the Steelers made the talented Florida State defensive end their 1st Round selection if LeBeau and linebackers coach Keith Butler intended to play him at the “strongside-outside linebacker” position in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme.
I do not believe that I need to go into too much detail as to why Colbert & Co. should target an outside linebacker early in this year’s Draft. The Steelers’ pass-rush was downright inconsistent last year, and their outside linebackers were nothing short of a disappointment form a productivity standpoint. Overall, Pittsburgh’s outside linebackers, the premier pass-rushing positions in their defense no less, only registered 15.0 sacks over the course of the 2012 regular season! If the Steelers seek to improve their pass-rush, they might want to take a long look at Werner if he is available in Round 1.
In terms of his productivity as a pass-rusher, Werner was an absolute monster off of the edge for the Seminoles over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. After he registered 20 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6.0 tackles for loss as a true freshman in 2010, “The Germinator” emerged as an effective compliment to teammates Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine in 2011 and put up career-highs in tackles (37), sacks (7.0), tackles for loss (11.0) to go along with 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception. Last year, despite the fact that Jenkins went down with a foot injury, Werner continued to produce along with Carradine. During his 1st team All-American campaign, Bjoern racked up 42 tackles, 13.0 sacks, and 18.0 tackles for loss in addition to 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 8 passes defended. Werner performed so well that he was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year!
Regardless of whether or not he plays defensive end or outside linebacker, Bjoern must do a better job of setting the edge in the run game if he wants to be successful at the pro level. His skills in that area are raw and inconsistent in my opinion, and opposing teams will run in his direction (the strong side of the line no less) often if he cannot anchor himself against the run game well enough. Teams should not fret however, because Bjoern possesses long arms (33.25″) and has enough strength to succeed in that area when he is taught how to better use his hands and leverage against opposing offensive linemen and tight ends.
Because LaMarr Woodley’s play and inability to stay healthy have been nothing short of unacceptable over the last two years, I for one would love to see Colbert & Co. take a player like Werner (or Alex Okafor of Texas) for insurance purposes at the strongside-outside linebacker position.
As we all know, LaMarr’s massive deal ($61.5 million) is an “albatross” of sorts which weighs heavily against Pittsburgh’s current and future salary caps. Thus, if Woodley cannot play up to the level of someone who earns that type of coin, Colbert & Co. would be best served to find the soon-to-be 29 year-old’s replacement at the position who can upgrade their team’s anemic pass-rush.
Although Werner is a bit raw, his talent “ceiling” is high. Furthermore, the former Seminole has the athletic tools to be a standout pass-rusher at the professional level under the right tutelage.
Even if the Steelers do not select Werner later this month, I am sure that they will try to add at least one outside linebacker via the draft process.
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