The linebacker position was an area of concern for the St. Louis Rams when this offseason began, but many believed that the team would take a stopgap approach rather than continue a complete overhaul of the defense’s second level. Those many were ultimately proven wrong as the team chose to add versatile linebacker Alec Ogletree in the 2013 NFL Draft. Now the main question becomes just how does he fit into the linebacking corps and what type of impact will he have in year one with the team?
Of all of the linebackers in the 2013 draft class, Ogletree possesses the highest ceiling of any. His ability to track back in coverage as well as step up and fill the whole in run support was rivaled by none among this year’s draftees. As a converted safety from his days with the Georgia Bulldogs, Ogletree will also offer some excellent coverage skills with the ability to neutralize some of the biggest weapons in the league today at the tight end position.
That will certainly come in handy given the club’s shaky depth chart at the safety position, but the linebacker depth chart isn’t all that much better. There likely won’t be much competition for Ogletree to earn a starting job in week one with only James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar firmly entrenched as starters. Only fellow rookies and second-year players remain outside of those two veterans at linebacker so Ogletree should have an easy time claiming his spot as a starter.
Speed will be a clear asset for Ogletree as a converted safety, but that won’t help only on the defensive side of the ball. His ability was shown several times in college as a more than capable body on the punt team as he blocked six kicks during his time at Georgia. There will definitely be multiple uses for a player as athletic as Ogletree on a young squad like the Rams.
It’s hard to find a true NFL comparison for a player as multidimensional as Ogletree, but one that I personally believe is fitting is a fellow former Bulldog in Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. His instincts in coverage will be very similar to the former safety converted to linebacker at the NFL level except for he made the transition a few years earlier. If Ogletree’s career arc can follow Davis’ (sans the injuries) the Rams will be thrilled with their newest addition at linebacker.
Learning how to shed blockers like Jake Long and Rodger Saffold in training camp will definitely help Ogletree when the real deal arrives this fall. Those battles will be fun to watch as the Rams get into the swing of things in late July.