Georgia inside linebacker Alec Ogletree is a dynamic athlete who played strong safety in his freshman season. The 6’3’’, 234-pound Ogletree racked up 98 tackles in only nine games in 2012.
When you watch Ogletree on film, the first thing that stands out is his speed. Ogletree can absolutely fly, excelling in coverage and pursuit. Whether he’s chasing down a ball-carrier or dropping with a tight end, Ogletree looks like a safety. To say he’s a fluid athlete is an understatement; he’s one of the most natural movers at the linebacker position that I’ve studied in a while.
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That doesn’t mean Ogletree will automatically be an elite linebacker in the NFL, though. He certainly has that potential, but right now he’s not a natural at the position. He takes false steps and tries to run around blockers as opposed to taking them on. He’s a lean player—not your “prototypical” inside linebacker—and he plays like that. He’s really an extra safety down in the box.
None of that is a knock on Ogletree though because, if used appropriately, I think he can be a unique player at the next level. He’s sort of a hybrid safety/linebacker that could be used to combat the rise of the pass-catching tight end.
There are some things Ogletree will need to improve at the next level. First, he has to add some meat to his bones. Even if he plays the Will position in a 4-3 defense, which is almost assuredly what will happen, he has to get stronger at the point. He often dips his shoulders and tries to sidestep blockers, allowing the ball-carrier to get by him.
Having said that, Ogletree offers some versatility. He’s a three-down player that could potentially move back to strong safety in jumbo/goal line packages. Capable of covering tight ends and backs on passing downs, Ogletree—the lean, quick linebacker—might just be the future of the position.
NFL Comparison: Kam Chancellor
Yes, I know Chancellor plays strong safety for the Seahawks, but Ogletree is really a safety playing linebacker. The two have the exact same measurements and very similar skill sets. Chancellor could very well play the Will for Seattle.
Is Ogletree a first-round athlete? There’s no question about it. He’s probably one of the top 15 athletes in this draft, or even higher. Because of that fact alone, he’ll likely be a first-round pick. I think he belongs in the first round as well, but the team that selects him needs to know what they’re getting. If used properly, Ogletree has the potential to really impact a defense.
But here’s the catch: he’s a high-risk player, and first-round picks should generally be reserved for players with high floors, i.e. don’t miss on the pick. Maximizing upside—which Ogletree obviously possesses—is of course a good thing, but at a time of the draft when just about everyone has a high ceiling, teams have the most to gain by minimizing downside.
Fit In Dallas
I really think linebacker is a position to keep an eye on for the ‘Boys. Everyone is talking about the offensive and defensive lines (and rightfully so), but if the team retains Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff, they could place just as much emphasis on the linebacker position.
Now, the only way that Ogletree would be an option for Dallas is as the weak side linebacker, and Monte Kiffin will likely play Bruce Carter there. If they deem Carter capable of playing the strong side, however, they could at least consider Ogletree, although not at their current draft slot of No. 18 overall.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.