The St. Louis Rams played a little high-stakes roulette in April, taking a major risk during the first round of the NFL Draft. No, I’m not talking about trading away picks in order to move up from 16 to eight to select speedster Tavon Austin. The real drama came after they traded down from 22 to 30 in order to recoup some of the picks they traded away. Their number-one defensive player was still on the board and they rolled the dice, hoping he’d still be there for them at 30.
Fortunately, it all worked out and the Rams were able to get their man, Alec Ogletree, at the end of the first round. Ogletree, a 6-foot-2, 242-pound linebacker from Georgia, is going to be a household name in St. Louis, hopefully for the right reasons. His talent is undeniable. He’s a rangy, converted safety who loves to play downhill and can deliver a punch in the run game. However, there were concerns about his character entering the draft, which accounted for his fall to the late first.
For the Rams, Ogletree will likely play strong side linebacker in Jeff Fisher’s 4-3 defense. He’ll be surrounded by two high-volume tacklers in James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Both guys topped the 100-tackle mark, combining to make 257 stops. However, neither Laurinaitis nor Dunbar is known for their athleticism in pass coverage. That’s where Ogletree will fit in.
At Georgia, Ogletree was used in a variety of ways. He’s athletic enough to cover tight ends in the slot and quick enough to provide a pass rush in blitz situations. He’s great in pursuit, and although he tackles a little high, he hits with great explosion. He’ll need to get stronger at the point of attack, and learn to use his hands to shed blockers, but that will come with time. Remember, he’s only been a linebacker for two years.
Another benefit to Ogletee will be the strong defensive line that will be playing in front of him. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn are two quality players who can set the edge in the run game. And if defensive tackle Michael Brockers can stay healthy, he’ll eat up blocks on the interior, allowing Ogletree to freelance. With all the talent around him, Ogletree should flourish and could very well win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Other players have more hype, but few have his talent.
Ultimately, Fisher is a defensive guru and will find ways to utilize Ogletree’s freakish athletic ability. The Rams are a team that is a player or two away from being a legitimate contender in the NFL. Austin could be the dynamic offensive playmaker they’ve been missing, and Ogletree could thrive on the turf in St. Louis. Both very well could win rookie of the year in 2013.