Pete Werner bringing no-nonsense approach to draft prep

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Pete Werner's one of the top defensive prospects in this April's NFL Draft. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS — Pete Werner never won any individual awards during his time at Ohio State.

Sure, the linebacker was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award this past season. But the Silver Bullets veteran never let trophy voters hinder his performance on the field. Instead, his no-nonsense approach on the practice field and meeting room transferred to strong performances on game day.

The dedication to the game during his time in Columbus is about to pay off, though. Because while the voters may have never given him an award, NFL general managers and scouts will be more than happy to pick the 6-foot-3, 242-pound linebacker in next month’s draft.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Werner as the No. 6 outside linebacker in this year’s draft class.

“He’s a leader,” Kiper said on a Monday conference call. “He makes plays. He’s a really good tackler against running backs in the open field. He’s the kind of guy you look at the production overall, and he’s not going to be a sack guy. That’s not his forte. He had one sack this year.

“In 2018, what, did he have one sack? Three sacks overall. There were a couple games where he was getting multiple tackles for loss. Just a guy, eight tackles against Alabama this year, almost double-digit tackles against Clemson. He led them in total tackles, he was second in total tackles as a junior.”

Pete Werner-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner is a likely Day Two pick in April’s NFL Draft. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Kiper was also impressed with Werner’s ability to play with tight ends coming at him. Against Penn State in October, Werner helped the Buckeyes hold Pat Freiermuth to a season-low three receptions for 46 yards. The tape against the Nittany Lions will help Werner since Kiper has Freiermuth as the No. 2 player at tight end in this draft class.

Werner was a four-star recruit in 2017, ranked the second-best player in Indiana and the No. 27 overall linebacker in his class. He saw playing time as a freshman at Ohio State, before starting every game in 2018 thanks to Jerome Baker’s early departure to the NFL.

His best season came in 2019, recording a career-high total tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Werner finished last year with 54 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

What also impressed NFL teams last season was his ability to be flexible among the Bullets. While being the official SAM linebacker in Ohio State’s 4-3 defense, he saw a few snaps at the MIKE. The ability to adjust to playing on the inside will suit him  at the next level if asked to adjust to a 3-4 front.

“I think Pete Werner, if he runs as well as you think he possibly could — which is in that 4.6 or faster at 6-foot-2 and 240 [pounds] — I think with his versatility and coverage and the way he tackles in the open field, I think you’re looking at no later than the second round,” Kiper said. “At worst the third round if he didn’t run as well. I would say two is best-case scenario, at worst third round.”

Pro Football Focus calculated Werner played 1,958 snaps in his career with Ohio State, committing only two penalties and allowing just one touchdown.

That’s the evidence of Werner’s commitment to playing perfect football. And it’s why he’ll hear his name called on Day Two of the NFL Draft.