Colts take Werner with No. 24 pick in NFL draft

By MICHAEL MAROT - AP Sports Writer
    2013-04-25 23:36

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Colts general manager Ryan Grigson ignored the times and watched Bjoern Werner's game tape.

What he saw was a football player who plays fast - certainly fast enough to outweigh concerns over his 40-yard dash times. So when the Colts saw the 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive end from Florida State available with the 24th pick overall Thursday night, they wasted no time in passing up trade offers and selected the native German who they're planning to move to outside linebacker.

``You turn on the film and he jumps off the screen at you. He's one of those guys you watch and immediately say, `He's not going to be there,''' Grigson said. ``But like we talked from the beginning, you take the combine with a grain of salt. It factors, but you shouldn't let a great player slide by you because he didn't blow out a great 40 time. This guy is productive, plays hard, is a team player too and fits coach's mold as a human being and a football player.''

If the transition from defensive end to linebacker goes as smoothly as the one Werner made from soccer to American football, the Colts will have a steal.

Werner said he changed sports at age 12, starting with two years of flag football. That's three years earlier than listed on his bio.

Neither that discrepancy nor his 40-yard dash time of 4.83 seconds at the combine mattered to the Colts. They had him rated higher because of what they saw on film and in a personal workout. They also saw a player who could replace the franchise's career sacks leader, Dwight Freeney, and supplement the Colts' No. 2 sacks man, Robert Mathis, in the lineup this fall.

``He (Werner) is an edge setter. We always talk about those guys, first and foremost, being able to set the edge in the run game. He can certainly do that,'' coach Chuck Pagano said. ``He's a dynamic pass rusher. He's a guy that obviously we knew we needed to address that (pass rush) and he's the highest player on the board at the time. We can do a lot of things with this guy.''

Pagano started laying out those possibilities even before Werner, who watched the draft in New York City, made it onto a conference call with local reporters.

The Colts believe he can play strong-side linebacker, rush linebacker or perhaps even play on the defensive line. He could even help the Colts as a fullback in goal-line situations, something Pagano said he's already discussed with new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

Of all the moves they made in free agency, this was one glaring need. Indy filled in two gaps on the offensive line, replaced departed receiver Donnie Avery by adding former first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and brought in six new defensive players, all of whom they expect to be immediate contributors.

But none of those players has a pass-rushing resume quite like Werner's and he can't wait to prove it.

``Coach Pagano, I just connected with him when he worked me out a couple of weeks ago and I can't wait to meet with them,'' Werner said after explaining his emotions by using the German word for excited. ``I'm happy they picked me.''

Werner is also part of a new wave of foreign-born players entering the league.

The good news is that he's a fast learner.

He landed in America as a foreign-exchange student at a Connecticut high school. Florida State thought enough of Werner's play to offer him a scholarship and he rewarded the Seminoles by playing in all 14 games as a true freshman, starting the last 27 games and finishing his three-year career with 99 tackles, 23 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 17 pass breakups.

Last season, Werner was so dominant he finished with 13 sacks and eight pass breakups that he was named the ACC's defensive player of the year.

Grigson and Pagano were convinced he was their guy even before leaving town to put Werner through a workout.

When they returned and took another look at the tape, they were convinced Werner could be the guy and when he was still around for the 24th pick, the high-fives began flying around the Colts' meeting room.

``We really look first and foremost at the player's `play speed,''' Grigson said. ``There have been a lot of players that have come off draft boards throughout the history of this league that didn't run great, they ran OK, they didn't run pedestrian times but they didn't blow anyone's barn doors off. But you put on the film and he's the first one off the ball every down, he's got great get-off, he can bend and his closing speed is excellent on film. So he plays the game at a higher rate of speed. He just doesn't run 40 yards and I don't think he's going to have to rush the passer in that type of measurement.''


Online: http://pro32.ap.org

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