No. 30: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (6-3, 266)
The Falcons were minutes away from the Super Bowl in 2012, and have geared up for another run by signing veteran RB Steven Jackson and re-signing TE Tony Gonzalez. But to take that next step, they're going to have to address a key position on their defense.
Atlanta has struggled over the past several seasons to get consistent pressure on the QB. And with defensive end John Abraham released, the Falcons have no one on the team they can count on to bring the heat. Osi Umenyiora was signed in the offseason, but his production -- despite playing across from Jason Pierre-Paul -- has declined the past two seasons. The 11-year veteran is better than any alternative, but isn't going to strike fear into offensive tackles.
Werner is a German citizen who came to the United States as a sophomore in high school, but returned to Germany for his junior year and played on the German national team (who knew they had one?). He returned to the States as senior though, and after being pursued heavily by Chip Kelly and Oregon, chose to attend Florida State.
As a junior in 2012, Werner was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.
Werner is not an explosive athlete like Barkevious Mingo or Ezekial Ansah, but he still manages to get off the snap and into blockers quickly. He shows great balance and flexibility while turning the corner. He can go toe-to-toe with tackles and win with surprising strength, and pursues down the line well.
The Falcons' coaching staff will have to tweak his technique a bit and make him use leverage more consistently, as he stands up a little too often, negating his strength.
Atlanta is a Super Bowl contender, but to get there they're going to need pass rushers. Werner gives them that, plus a good football IQ that will allow him to recognize the myriad new looks QBs like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson bring to the table. If Werner can complement Umenyiora and DE Kroy Biermann in 2013, the Falcons should be able to challenge for NFC supremacy.