COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Pete Werner will be one of three, potentially four, Ohio State linebackers taken in the NFL draft. Perhaps no Buckeye has a wider draft projection range than Werner, who some analysts say will go in the third round while others believe he’s a first-round caliber player.
Werner could be one of three Buckeyes taken in the first round, along with Justin Fields and offensive guard Wyatt Davis.
Werner was one of the most consistent players at Ohio State during the past three seasons, starting in all but one game from his sophomore to senior seasons.
Werner racked up 168 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles during his four seasons. But more impressive than any of those numbers was the fact that Werner played in 1,958 snaps and only committed two penalties while only allowing one touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus.
One of Werner’s biggest strengths is his ability to play multiple positions as an inside and outside linebacker who can cover in space.
“I liked being in the box this past year, but I know that I’m very good at playing in space, so whatever fits the defense is kind of where I’d like to be,” Werner said.
The McCordsville, Indiana, native was the No. 2 overall recruit in the Hoosier state and originally committed to Notre Dame before deciding to come to Columbus. He’s projected as a middle round pick, but Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl and an ESPN NFL draft analyst, said he believes Werner is talented enough to be drafted in the first round.
“Pete Werner may be the most underrated off-the-ball linebacker in this year’s class,” Nagy said on SportsCenter on Sunday. “Talking to teams, there are a lot of teams that have him in the late first round, so somewhere in that mid 20 to 32 range would not surprise me one bit if Pete Werner finds himself going on Thursday night.”
Werner’s dad, Greg, played two seasons in the NFL as a tight end with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. Ohio State coach Ryan Day had high praise for Werner before playing Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game in December.
“I think he’s playing as good as anybody in the country at linebacker,” Day said. “He’s very versatile at what he can do. We moved him in at Will [inside linebacker] and he’s having a major impact on the game. He’s a man. … We’re going to miss his production and miss him as a person.”
Werner was one of four senior leaders at the linebacker position last season in a group that was widely believed to be the best linebacker corps in college football. Baron Browning is expected to be selected in the third round, while Justin Hilliard will likely be a late-round pick. Tuf Borland may not be taken in the draft, but it’s highly likely he’ll be signed as an undrafted free agent. Jonathon Cooper played defensive end at Ohio State, but he may be playing linebacker at the next level, too, in a 3-4 defensive scheme.