INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts selected defensive end Bjoern Werner of Florida State with the No. 24 pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, bringing in a potential pass-rushing replacement for Dwight Freeney, the franchise's career sacks leader who remains a free agent.
And he fills one of the few holes Indy did not address during a free-agent signing frenzy in which they brought in six new defensive players.
The 6-foot-3, 266-pound German was expected to go higher in the first round until he ran a sub-par 40-yard dash time at February's NFL combine. But after watching Werner on tape, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano said he plays faster than he times.
It shows. A year ago, Werner was named the ACC's defensive player of the year, compiling 13 sacks at Florida State.
Not bad for a guy who grew up playing soccer and didn't start playing American football until a friend invited him to compete in a flag football game in Berlin. Obviously, he was a quick learner. He started the last 27 games of his college career for the Seminoles and finished his career with 99 tackles, 23½ sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 17 pass breakups.
The Colts have big plans for Werner.
After playing defensive end throughout his college career, the Colts plan to move Werner to outside linebacker where they can pair him opposite the second-leading sack man in franchise history. Pagano said Werner would be an "edge setter" on first and second down and likely would be more of a pass-rushing threat on third down.
That's not all. They believe he can play either strong side linebacker or rush linebacker on defense and that he could be a fullback in goal-line situations, too.
And after the poor time at the combine, Grigson said he and Pagano went to Florida State for a personal workout with Werner and came away impressed.
The move comes one year after Indy selected Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick and surprised the football world with a nine-win improvement and a return to the playoffs. They've spent this offseason plugging holes.
Indy shored up its offensive line by signing two free agents and replaced departed receiver Donnie Avery with former first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey. They also signed a handful of defensive free agents, including outside linebacker Erik Walden, who they hope can help rush the quarterback. But Werner gives a bigger option who could make a big impact next season.