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Will Rams take a chance on Ogletree?
By Jim Thomas
Dating back to his long tenure in Tennessee, Jeff Fisher has never been shy about drafting players with off-field issues. His first draft as Rams coach a year ago was no exception. See: cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, and to a lesser extent wide receiver Chris Givens.
There have been a few bumps along the way for those three as Rams, but for the most part the early returns on them are good. In terms of this year’s draft, Fisher and general manager Les Snead could be staring at another such decision in Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Only this time, the decision will come in the first round instead of the second (Jenkins), third (Johnson), and fourth (Givens). Early on in the pre-draft process, Ogletree was considered a top 10 pick. And that projected status came despite a four-game suspension at the beginning of Georgia’s season for a positive drug test.
And then shortly before the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, Ogletree was arrested for a DUI. Obviously that arrest didn’t reflect well on Ogletree and showed an alarming lack of common sense given its proximity to the Combine – the most important single event in the pre-draft process and a gridiron version of a job fair.
There were murmurs that Ogletree didn’t interview well with teams at the Combine, and he didn’t come off as very remorseful over the DUI in his media interview sessions.
“I’m a good person at heart,” Ogletree told reporters then. “Everybody makes mistakes. I feel real bad about the situation. I’m learning from it and I’m moving forward.”
We won’t know for sure until the draft, but his stock seemingly has dropped and it now looks like he could be available when the Rams pick at No. 16 overall, and perhaps even at No. 22 overall.
What will the Rams do if that’s the case? Ogletree may prove particularly tempting to the Rams if both the projected top two wide receivers are gone by No. 16: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
As much as they need help at the skill positions on offense, outside linebacker is the second-biggest need on defense for the Rams (with safety being the biggest).
Ogletree played inside linebacker this past season for Georgia, but the Rams envision him as an athletic, speedy run-and-chase outside linebacker. In today’s pass-happy NFL, space players are at a premium. That’s especially true in a division that features a pair of highly effective read-option quarterbacks in San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson. You can’t have enough speed on the perimeter and in the open field. And simply stated, Ogletree has great closing speed.
“I’m very comfortable with my skills,” Ogletree said. “I like to play sideline to sideline. I try to use my speed to my advantage. When I can strike somebody, I do that.”
Even if Ogletree manages to steer clear of any off-field issues, there are some scouts who question his effectiveness on the field. For someone with so many physical skills, Ogletree sometimes plays as if he either lacks football instincts or isn’t going 100 percent all the time.
But even though Ogletree appeared in only 10 games for the Bulldogs last season – his junior season – he did a little bit of everything, registering 111 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss, and three sacks. He also had five pass breakups, an interception, and two fumble recoveries.
That’s the tease. But the off-field issues make him a definite gamble.
Ogletree paid a pre-draft visit to Rams Park this month, but the team is looking at several linebacker prospects. Arthur Brown of Kansas State, Khaseem Greene of Rutgers, Sio Moore of Connecticut, and Gerald Hodges of Penn State are also known to have made pre-draft visits to Rams Park.
Like Ogletree, Greene is a former safety who grew into a linebacker. Greene is a big hitter who was very productive in college. In 2011, his first season at linebacker, he was named co-defensive player of the year in the Big East. In 2012, he won the same honor outright, leading Rutgers in tackles (136) and sacks (six), while scoring two defensive touchdowns.
Brown was Big 12 defensive player of the year at Kansas State last season and a first-team all-American after registering 100 tackles, with two interceptions, and a touchdown. At UConn, Moore led the Huskies in tackles for loss (15½) while registering 11 pass breakups. He was impressive in both the East-West Shrine game and Senior Bowl, and tested well at the Combine.
Hodges, who also began his college career at safety, has good coverage skills and led Penn State in tackles the past two seasons.
The Rams have also taken a good look at Zaviar Gooden of Missouri, who ran the fastest 40 time (4.47) among linebackers at the Combine. Additionally, Texas A&M’s Sean Porter had a “suite” visit with the Rams at the Combine. Howard’s Keth Pough met with the Rams at the East-West Shrine game and had a formal suite interview with them at the Combine. They’ve also shown some interest in Ty Powell of Harding.
It’s possible the Rams could draft two linebackers – one relatively early in the draft (Rounds 2 or 3) and one later in the draft. In today’s NFL, with so many teams running 3-4 alignments, it’s difficult to find 4-3 outside linebackers. That could force the Rams to overdraft one they like; in other words, take one maybe a round higher than projected.
Re: Will Rams take a chance on Ogletree?
Re: Will Rams take a chance on Ogletree?The Rams have also taken a good look at Zaviar Gooden of Missouri, who ran the fastest 40 time (4.47) among linebackers at the Combine. Additionally, Texas A&M’s Sean Porter had a “suite” visit with the Rams at the Combine. Howard’s Keth Pough met with the Rams at the East-West Shrine game and had a formal suite interview with them at the Combine. They’ve also shown some interest in Ty Powell of Harding.
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