In potentially the least surprising bit of news to come out after the Orange Bowl, Florida State junior DE Bjoern Werner will reportedly leave college early and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.
Werner is currently pegged to be a top-5 draft choice and is rated the top defensive end in the country by many draft experts, including Mel Kiper. ESPN initially reported the news via sources close to Werner, who later confirmed the news himself.
"I'm grateful to Coach Fisher and Florida State for giving me the opportunity to be a Seminole and play for one of the top college football programs in the country," Werner said to Seminoles.com. "I've learned so much from the coaches especially Coach [D.J.] Eliot and have been able to play with some of the best players in the country. After sitting down with my wife, Denise, and gathering as much information, I've decided to move on and enter the NFL draft. I've enjoyed my time at FSU and will cherish the time I spent as a Seminole."
Werner had told reporters he'd come to a decision weeks before Florida State's 31-10 Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois, but wanted to take his time before announcing it. It isn't surprising he would opt to leave though. Werner pointed to DE Brandon Jenkins' decision to return for his senior year when he gave reporters a reason for delaying his own. But Jenkins also missed the entire year after suffering a Lisfranc fracture during the season opener and potentially hurt his draft stock with the decision.
What likely sealed the decision was when Jenkins' replacement tore his ACL against UF in the regular season finale. After coming from out of no where, Tank Carradine was being projected as a first round NFL draft pick himself before tearing up his knee late in the game agaisnt the Gators. Watching two potential first rounders at his own position suffer injuries that could cost them millions in April's draft was likely enough to push Werner to turn pro now and take the considerable pay-day that comes with being selected at the top of the first round.
"I'd like to congratulate Bjoern on his decision to enter the NFL draft," said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. "It's the best decision for him and his family. 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."
For his career Werner had 23.5 sacks, including an ACC-leading 13 this season. He is considered a top talent as both a pass-rusher and a run-stuffer and could potentially go as high as second to Jacksonville come April.
Werner joins Xavier Rhodes as Seminole juniors who will forgo their senior seasons. Christian Jones and a few others could also decide in the coming days to make the jump, or could return to Florida State's defense in 2013. Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) is returning in 2013 to work with former Alabama DB-coach and new FSU Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
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