In a move that surprised no one, Florida State junior defensive end and unanimous All-American Bjoern Werner officially declared for the NFL Draft on Thursday night in a statement released by the University.
Werner spoke to the media via conference call on Friday about the decision to forgo his senior year. The 6-foot-4, 256-pound Berlin, Germany native said he came to his decision after the ACC Championship but wanted to wait until after the Orange Bowl to make it official
"The feedback I got back from the coaches and people I talked to who talked to NFL Scouts they just said to go," Werner said. "I can't really improve on that much. Every Coach said if you're predicted to be in the first round you should leave. That was the case. Coach (Jimbo) Fisher he talks to (NFL) coaches and he said they think I can go in the first and I should leave 'It's just the best for you.' I know that too so there's not much left in college for me. I won the ACC, won the Orange Bowl and it's just a nice way to go out."
Werner said he spoke with Fisher and defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot at length about the decision. Both coaches and his family agreed that after the season he had, it would be foolish for him to return for another season.
This season Werner finished with 42 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and eight pass breakups as he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
"It's the best decision for him and his family," Fisher said in Thursday's press release. "Not only is he a great football player but he's an unbelievable person. His leadership on and off the field will impact this program for years to come. I wish him nothing but the best and he will always be remembered as one of the great players in FSU history."
In addition to Eliot and Fisher, Werner also consulted with fellow defensive end and good friend Brandon Jenkins about the decision. Jenkins faced a similar decision last season but elected to return for his senior year in an effort to improve his stock from a fringe first round pick to a solid first round selection.
In the first game of the season, Jenkins went down with a lisfranc injury that only cost him the entire season, but could drop him all the way to a third or fourth round selection. Then in the final game of the regular season, Cornelius Carradine also went down with an injury, tearing his ACL and likely costing him a shot at being selected in the first two rounds of the draft.
Werner admitted seeing his two good friends go down with injuries factored into his decision, but weren't the sole reason he declared early.
"Me and Brandon we're close. We talked a lot during the season about it," Werner said. "Of course from his standpoint he advised me to leave, with him being the example of what can happen if you come back. It wasn't really the biggest (factor in) the decision. This was my ultimate dream when I came from Germany, to play in the NFL."
The final people Werner had to discuss the decision with were his parents back home in Germany. Werner returned during Christmas break of bowl practices to Berlin and tried his best to explain the decision to his parents, who are more accustomed to professional soccer where the players decide who to sign with once they turn pro.
"They're excited," he said. "They don't understand half of it, but I tried to explain the whole draft process. They think I'm in the NFL already, but I was like 'No there's a whole five month process you have to go through before you get drafted.' It's funny explaining all this to my parents."
Over the next few months leading up to the NFL draft, Werner will train at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He has signed with agent Jimmy Sexton and CAA. Sexton also represents Fisher, former FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and FSU QB Christian Ponder among others.
Werner is projected to be a potential top-five pick. NFLDrafscout.com ranks Werner the No. 2 player overall in the draft, behind only Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel. Both ESPN/Scout's Inc. draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have Werner listed at the No. 8 player overall on their big boards.
While he doesn't pay much attention to the mock drafts, Werner did say he's flattered by the projections and hopes to make good on then by the time the draft rolls around.
"Projections are projections, but it's still an honor that people think that highly of me," he said. "There's still a long process to the draft and I'm trying to be one of the top players taken. It's really exciting to go through all this process, not a lot of people can do that and I can't wait to get started."
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