PROSPECT SUMMARY – PETE WERNER
Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner’s path to the NFL has been highlighted by a gradual shift into a more high-impact role on a Buckeyes defense that has been as loaded with linebackers during his tenure as any team in college football. Werner, whose initial starting role featured him at SAM and often aligned overtop of opposing tight ends in coverage or flexed onto the hash, has gradually been weaned into more of an every-down (and every-role) type player and has not disappointed. Werner’s size, hand power, and athleticism should afford him a prominent three-down role in an NFL defense—especially when accounting for how often the Buckeyes have charged him with playing on the fringes of the box and in coverage. Werner has baseline athleticism to live up to that expectation in the pro game as well, but he’s also got the size and power to shoot gaps and thud blocks and ball carriers alike. Werner looks the part of a starting NFL linebacker and should be expected to at least carve out a significant role for himself on a pro defense in 2021 before growing and evolving into an even bigger role.
Ideal Role: 4-3 SAM linebacker.
Scheme Fit: Werner is a fascinating fit as a 4-3 SAM backer but odd front defenses can make a strong case for him working inside as an ILB.
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Michigan State (2019), Penn State (2019), Wisconsin (2019), Nebraska (2020), Indiana (2020), Northwestern (2020), Clemson (2020)
Best Game Studied: Clemson (2020)
Worst Game Studied: Wisconsin (2019)
Tackling: Werner is a physical finisher who has the tackle radius to swallow up ball carriers in the immediate vicinity. When he’s tested to the perimeter, angles and anticipation can at times get the best of Werner and he’ll be a touch behind fitting into the back hip of the ball carrier and he’s seen a few tackles escape his grasp in that regard. He’s stout in head-up finishes, however, and brings a lot of force into his gap shoot.
Football IQ: It's easy to appreciate Werner’s progression and development here. The Buckeyes gradually moved him closer to the football and he’s rewarded them with strong play this season and a surprising amount of proficiency in a number of areas and fundamentals. He’s got a nose for pursuit to the football, regardless of whether or not it comes in space or in traffic. He’s not perfect—overaggressive and ambitious angles seem to be the root of some of the inconsistencies that spring up finishing plays.
Competitive Toughness: Physical. It’s easy to love what Werner brings in this regard to combat and discard blockers and how hard he rallies to the football. Those two things combined project for plenty of motor plays and success. He’s not an easy player to derail with lateral contact, either—he shows good balance through late contact to not get derailed or knocked off path.
Pass Coverage Ability: He’s capable here, particularly in shallow zone coverage. He’s well versed in feeling crossers or picking up routes from the slot and transitioning into contesting the route. He’s got the size and length to reroute patterns pushing through the contact window and he’s physical enough to bang with tight ends here in the middle of the field. Smaller, more fluid tight ends have given him some trouble, as he’s looked to flip his hips and carry up the field—so I wouldn’t necessarily call him a mismatch eraser in converge. But he’s comfortable and experienced in space and can certainly disrupt the timing of patterns from Y-alignment or from the slot.
Run Defending: Werner has played more stack LB as of late and the results haven’t disappointed. He’ll jump down into gaps in a hurry and he’s fully capable of stacking and shucking blockers climbing to greet him on the B-level. I don’t anticipate he shows the sideline-to-sideline range to serve as a consistent MIKE, but he’s more than capable in sub to take those snaps and provide reliable gap assignment in even teams try to draw or run on 3rd-and-long.
Block Deconstruction: The length and hand power flash here in a big way. Werner knows how to address blockers and that allows him to stun, read the block, and then use disengagement and upper-body power to press and get off clean before resuming in pursuit. He will bully the point on outside run and force runs back inside with consistency, too.
Lateral Mobility: The ceiling here isn’t especially high—as previously mentioned, I don’t believe this is a true MIKE linebacker who can string out runs sideline to sideline. But he’s clearly athletic enough to run late rotation in coverage for OSU and has even been used from split safety alignment at times—this is a good athlete. He’s just not as dynamic with his short-area agility relative to other athletes you often see fulfilling this role on the defense. His burst is more prominent on shallow angles to get downhill than it is to slide across face or to mirror from leverage at the top of a route.
Flexibility: Werner shows a fair amount of rotational mobility to hinge and drop into far-reaching landmarks with success—he’s certainly more fluid than most 240-pound linebackers you’ll cross. Werner shows strong coil through his core and base to explode into tackles and block stuns alike. He can be a bit high hipped in transition when not playing into the LOS, which is something to watch for any team who wants to leave him on an island to press and blanket tight ends off the line in coverage.
Leadership: Werner has not served as a team captain for Ohio State—that honor went to fellow linebackers Tuf Borland and Justin Hilliard. But Werner certainly seems to be a strong presence on the Buckeyes defense without a title and he’s risen to the occasion of being placed into the prestigious “WILL” role. He’s been credited as a strong communicator on the defense.
Versatility: Werner has been exposed to a slew of roles at Ohio State between WILL, SAM, and even some reps at safety. Don’t anticipate such a diverse pallet in the NFL, but he does project as a player with three-down value, which should help his draft status and afford him more pathways to playing immediately.
Prospect Comparison: K.J. Wright (2011 NFL Draft, Seattle Seahawks)
TDN Consensus: 78.88/100
Joe Marino: 78.50/100
Kyle Crabbs: 80.00/100
Jordan Reid: 79.00/100
Drae Harris: 78.00/100
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022