Who Dat Dish
Saints Draft

Diving deeper into the Saints’ 2021 NFL Draft class

New Orleans Saints (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Pete Werner #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action on defense during a game against the Maryland Terrapins (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Pete Werner #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action on defense during a game against the Maryland Terrapins (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Saints Draft: Round 2, Pick 60 – LB Pete Werner, Ohio State

Continuing to beef up their defensive front seven, the Saints did what many fans were hoping they would do, adding a linebacker in Ohio State’s Pete Werner with the No. 60 overall pick.

With little depth at the position outside of Demario Davis, it was obvious that linebacker was a short-term need for the Saints. However, teams don’t draft for need, especially in the second round, and it’s worth noting that linebacker:

  • a) isn’t a highly-valued position and
  • b) comes with a high adjustment curve to the NFL level.

For this reason, the prospect the Saints are targeting needs to pass a very high bar. Ultimately, it’s unclear if Werner passes that bar. Most scouting reports indicate that his awareness in coverage can be inconsistent, meaning that he’ll need some mental refinement at the next level. That speaks to a very high adjustment curve and will place extra pressure on his athleticism.

To that end, he did test out well with a 6.9 three-cone drill, though reports are more mixed on whether that change of direction consistently shows up on the playing field. Also, for a “mike linebacker”, Werner (6’0″, 237 pounds) is on the lighter side and considering he missed 14.6% of his tackles over the past three seasons, according to Florian Hollach of sportskeeda.com, that could be problematic.

There is a lot to like about Werner as well. He’s got a lot of experience playing in the middle of a successful defense in the Big 10, has an excellent change of direction skills, and is certainly the type of explosive player that fits the Saints defense well. In a lot of ways, he projects similarly to Kwon Alexander, who fans grew accustomed to watching last season.

Based on my model’s projections, Werner’s top comparison would be Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker, who has struggled in run defense and has been closer to average in coverage. When it’s all said and done, though, he’s been a competent No. 2 linebacker, which is all you really need at the position. As long as those are the expectations for Werner, he should meet them, though it is worth questioning if a traditional mike linebacker is the optimal use of a second-round pick.

Grade: C-

Model Rank: 99 (+31)

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