After an impressive haul in the 2013 NFL Draft and some savvy acquisitions during free agency, it seems like everyone and their brother is predicting big things for the St. Louis Rams this season. The mixture of youth and key experience on this club makes it an appealing sleeper pick, and their double-dip in the first round back in April certainly added an impact to their roster. But while most have fixated on the impact rookie speedster Tavon Austin will have on the offense, it seems the forgotten man could actually pay the biggest immediate dividends.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree was targeted by the Rams early in the pre-draft process. The team was in desperate need of some linebacking help, and Ogletree had the physical tools to make a substantial imprint on the roster early on. Although he slid all the way to the 30th overall pick where the Rams snagged the former Georgia Bulldog, many believe that were it not for off-field concerns, Ogletree would have been a top 10 prospect.
Sound familiar, Rams fans?
Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have shown a gambler’s mentality when it comes to adding troubled players who could potentially have a huge impact. Janoris Jenkins is the perfect example of a top 10 talent that slid all the way to the second round in April of 2012 where the Rams added the former Florida Gator. All he did as a rookie was score four defensive touchdowns and revitalize a secondary that was much maligned coming into the season.
And now the cycle seems to be repeating itself with Ogletree who joins a linebacking corps in disarray after Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s four-game suspension for using a banned substance. Stalwart James Laurinaitis remains the lone constant of the unit, but Ogletree seems up to the task of providing an instant impact this season.
His performance in the third preseason game against the Denver Broncos was marvelous. The first highlight of the night came when corner Cortland Finnegan held up ball carrier Ronnie Hillman just long enough for Ogletree to rip the exposed pigskin from his grasp scoop it up and trot 13 yards to pay dirt for a Rams touchdown. His second, and perhaps most impressive, highlight came against the great Peyton Manning just before halftime when he picked off a pass in ridiculous fashion. Here’s what Manning said of the play.
“I’m not sure I wouldn’t have thrown that 99 times out of 100. That guy made a pretty athletic play. That guy’s got long arms, obviously got a pretty wide wingspan. I was surprised he was able to get his hands on the ball.”
Yeah, “that guy” is going to make a serious impact in St. Louis this season. After the game, Ogletree explained what he credits for a stellar showing saying:
“I had a great week of practice and each week I’ve been trying to get the game to be a little bit slower. So this week, the game was definitely a lot slower for me.”
The Rams have to hope this process continues for the extremely athletic Georgia product as the year moves along. If it does, there’s no doubt Ogletree has the potential to be an absolute draft steal for the Rams long into the future.