The New Orleans Saints used a second-round pick, the 60th overall selection, on Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner. It was the tenth player drafted out of Ohio State by the Saints since 2000, more than any other school. Six of those Buckeye selections were made in the Sean Payton era, including four in the last six years.
It’s hard to argue with the logic. Recent Ohio State draftees like WR Michael Thomas and CB Marshon Lattimore have been among the league's best at their positions and have helped makeup one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
With the offseason departures of linebackers Kwon Alexander and Alex Anzalone, New Orleans was looking for a complement to All-Pro Demario Davis at the position. Let’s have a closer look at the latest Buckeyes star that’s been brought to New Orleans.
PETE WERNER, LINEBACKER (OHIO STATE)
Werner was a four-star recruit out of Cathedral High School in Indiana. Originally committing to Notre Dame, Werner switched his decision to ‘‘THE'' Ohio State University after a recruiting visit to the campus and a meeting with then-coach Urban Meyer.
He saw little action as a true freshman in a reserve role during the 2017 season but would work his way into the starting lineup by 2018. Werner recorded 58 tackles that year, including 7.5 for loss and 3 sacks, while breaking up 9 passes and forcing two fumbles.
Increasing his tackle production as a junior, Werner finished second on the Buckeyes with 64 stops in 2019. Six of those tackles were for loss, as he added 3 pass breakups and recovered 2 fumbles. In a shortened 2020 season, Werner led national runner-up Ohio State with 54 tackles. That included 2.5 for loss and a sack, while also breaking up a pass and forcing 2 fumbles.
Werner was voted to the All-Big 10 first team in 2020 after honorable mention accolades in 2019. He finished his four-year Ohio State career with 185 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 13 passes broken up, and 6 fumbles either forced or recovered.
A rough outing in the National Championship game against Alabama was a bitter end to a productive collegiate career. That loss highlighted a few of the only weaknesses in Werner's game, but they're big ones.
Lacking ideal athleticism for the position, Werner struggles in space and could be a liability in man coverage against athletic tight ends. He often gets beaten to the edge by faster running backs. Can be fooled by play-action or misdirection at times.
Werner's thin lower body can result in a poor base against bigger run blockers. Must improve his ability to shed blockers when in pursuit against the run. As a blitzer, Werner needs to develop more moves once engaging a pass blocker.
Overshadowed by a star-studded Buckeyes defense, Werner was a steady presence for three years. He has the football IQ and versatility to play any of the linebacker positions. Werner has sharp instincts that are still developing and is rarely caught out of position.
Werner shows good anticipation against both the run and pass. He moves well within the tackle box in pursuit and has a terrific closing burst to the ball carrier. He’s a physical hitter that shows instant recognition of gaps in blocking and the ability to fire through and make a play.
Werner has fluid movements through zone coverage and gets good depth on his drops. He’s athletic enough to take on some bigger tight ends in man coverage and has good change-of-direction ability.
A better athlete than some have given him credit for, Werner has good agility and underrated quickness. He still projects best for a strongside linebacker spot initially with added lower body strength. Pete Werner has the instincts and versatility to play any of the linebacker spots and should immediately challenge for a starting role alongside Demario Davis.