Around this time of the year, the Berlin streets are slippery and snowy, with the weather at a bone chilling 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In the past, Bjoern Werner would’ve likely been inside his house, sitting next to a fancy fireplace and drinking hot chocolate to keep warm. Now he’s working hard outdoors for NFL teams in the Florida sunshine, running through endless drills for scouts in private workouts as he continues his route to American football’s biggest stage.
Werner is one of three highly-rated prospects — the other two are BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah (Ghana) and SMU’s Margus Hunt (Estonia) — who have come from the international scene. He hails from Berlin, Germany, where he picked up American football at a young age through online videos and the Madden video games. He’s widely viewed as a pass rushing maestro because of his combination of explosiveness and hand quickness off the edge. He is likely to be a top 20 selection because of that combination, which has proved to be a death-wish for offensive linemen charged with blocking him.
He has 20 sacks over the last two years, including 13 in his final season at Florida State. Some of them have come because of a relentless speed rush, while others have come with tremendous hand usage and quickness. Werner’s flashes of proper hand usage is one of the aspects of his game that scouts will admire, as it shows his dedication to it in the film room and on the practice field. He excels at knocking the pass blocker’s hands away and then dipping his shoulder to get underneath their pads and turn the corner. It’s something that not all pass-rushers are able to do (see the other two names referenced) but Werner can, as he showed against Wake Forest this past season.
Aligned at the typical five technique across the right tackle’s outside shoulder, Werner exploded forward from the line of scrimmage and took a subtle step with his right foot away from the blocker. What this step forced the tackle to do was extend his right arm out, hoping to slow down the FSU pass-rusher who was rapidly heading upfield and past the blocker. When the tackle left his right arm out, Werner closed the gap and used his right arm to bat the blocker’s arm away.
The quick stab of the blocker’s right arm resulted in the tackle losing his balance because he was already behind Werner due to the end’s acceleration immediately after the snap. The tackle bent over at the waist and nearly folded like a lawn chair.
Meanwhile, Werner dipped his inside shoulder to turn the corner and beat the blocker. When he dipped his shoulder, he closed the gap between him and the blocker so that there was little room for the blocker to extend his arms and drive him wide of the pocket.
Werner knocked over the quarterback at the end, but wasn’t credited with the sack after another FSU pass-rusher came in at the last second. Still, the art of his pass rush was evident, as he made the tackle look silly with his impressive quickness, hand usage, and flexibility. He did the same against North Carolina State earlier in the season (7:48 mark).
He’ll have to keep improving to become a better pass-rusher because he’s inconsistent in all aspects of his game, but he offers potential to be considered in the second half of the first round. He’s best suited to be a weak-side end in a 4-3 defense, where he’ll be able to tee off on the quarterback on any given down.