IDP Rookie Spotlight Series – Bjoern Werner
First and foremost, Happy Superbowl weekend everyone! We’ve been blessed with a string of epic Superbowls in recent years so cheers to a great game today. For my second article in the IDP Rookie Spotlight Series, I felt like it was a no-brainer to take a crack at it and breakdown Bjoern Werner. For three reasons:
- He’s a legit 1st round prospect and quite possibly the #1 DE in this deep defensive end class.
- I’m a huge fan of German engineering. (Shout out to any and all VW owners out there!)
- I like bandwagons. Maybe because I like bands, or maybe I just like wagons. Don’t judge me… I’m only human. But I’m not the only person that is on this bandwagon.
With the combine just around the corner (Feb. 20th, set your DVR), I wanted to keep it tight and have a look at another one of the top defensive prospects in this years draft.
Bjoern declared for the NFL draft after his junior season where he finished with 13 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 8 passes defended. The sacks and TFL numbers are impressive, but notice that I mentioned the passes defended because he’s tallied 17 of them in his last two years. The other top DE prospects don’t even come close to that number over that span. Trust me, I looked. If I noticed then I’m sure that NFL teams have noticed too. Especially after the season that 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt just had. And if NFL teams are noticing, then us fantasy junkies should too. But enough about my J.J. mancrush… on to the report.
Tale of the Tape/Position – 6’4″, 256 lbs, Defensive End, Florida State
Athleticism – Bjoern has the ideal size and frame for a 4-3 DE and has a great combination of strength and athleticism. He’s incredibly explosive off the line and possesses above average strength to move opposing lineman out of his way. In his sophomore season, he tipped the scales at about 275 lbs and then dropped down to 255 lbs in his junior year. I mention this because he’s got the kind of frame to play in the 265-270 range in the NFL… maybe even more. The drop in weight no doubt helped his endurance last year but that’s something that he can always work on if he wants to be an elite rusher at the next level. From everything I’ve learned about him, he’s a naturally strong and gifted athlete. It’ll be interesting to see how many reps he does at the combine compared to the rest of this class but I’m assuming he’ll be in the top 3 in the bench press. If he’s truly as strong as they say, he’ll shine. Get him with the right coaching staff and strength/conditioning programs and he very well may be the total package in this years class.
Instincts/Intelligence – For a guy who hasn’t played football for many years (he only started at 15) he seems to have picked up the basics very well. He’s still developing, but displays very good awareness when setting the edge so he’s dependable in the run game as well. And with the read-option taking over the NFL, this is something that NFL teams will look for. Some DE’s can be one-trick ponies but Bjoern really has a chance to be an all around elite defensive end. At this point, he’s been able to rely on his athletic ability but he’ll have to keep improving if he wants to excel in the NFL. I don’t see this as an issue though, I’m sure he’ll put in the time. From a fantasy perspective, his lack of experience shouldn’t be a detriment to his value when we start drafting our studs this year.
Run Defense – If you want to be a top DE in the NFL (and in fantasy football), you have to be able to play all 3 downs. And this is why any NFL team or fantasy owner would want him on their team. As I mentioned, he does a great job setting the edge and maintaining lane assignments in the run game and he uses his hands and length to shed blockers and fight through traffic to make plays. He’ll probably run in the 4.70-4.75 range at the combine and he uses that speed well to chase down runners. For someone who hasn’t been playing at a high level for very long, he’s surpringly good in this phase of the game.
Coverage/Pass defense – Anyone who is investing an early draft pick in a DE is doing so because they want to see said player get after the quarterback and make a play. Havings said that, it would be tough to expect a man of his size to be great in pass coverage. But I have to say that he does a great job of getting his hands up in the year to knock the ball down. Again, we’re talking about a guy who is incredibly athletic. I’m sure he’ll be able to drop back into zone coverage if needed but that’s not where he’s most effective. We’ve all heard about “J.J. Swatt” this year and his insane ability to bat down balls, and I’m sure we’ll hear about Bjoern doing the same once Mayock’s combine coverage begins.
Pass Rush/Blitzing – Any 1st round DE draft prospect who is worth a damn better have top notch pass rushing skills, and Bjoern Werner certainly does. He has a great first step and gets off the LOS with excellent quickness. From there, he has very good closing speed and does a great job in turning the corner in pursuit of the QB. He uses his hands extremely well and utilizes solid technique and leverage to make his way into the backfield. If he wants to be elite in the NFL, he’ll have to add some moves to his arsenal so that he’s not always using his speed to get around the OT. Incorporating some spin and swim moves could make him a lethal pass rusher.
Intangibles/Character – In reality, it’s tough to judge a man without meeting him in person but he really doesn’t have any red flags. He definitely doesn’t seem to be a player who will get into trouble off the field. Everything I’ve found leads me to believe that he’s a very hard worker who will put in the time in the film room and be a coach (and fantasy owner) favorite. He certainly doesn’t appear to be the type of guy who will take plays off in real games, or even in practice for that matter. He’s a baller who can make the people around him better. And that makes him a very attractive draft pick.
Comparison – The common comparison is Chris Long but I think he’s a smaller J.J. Watt in the making. Don’t get me wrong, J.J. Watt is a manchild and there really isn’t anyone like him. But I just can’t shake this hunch that Bjoern will try to shape his game around Watt’s. As I mentioned, he’s got the frame to play with more weight but we’ll just have to see how it plays out. He’s a sure-fire 1st round pick in the NFL draft and will be worth considering in the late 2nd round or early 3rd of rookie drafts in IDP leagues, especially leagues that reward big plays. Again, this is a pretty deep class of pass rushers. You’ll see his name among the top or at the top of many lists. There’s a reason for that.