The St Louis Rams had another impressive draft back in April which was highlighted by trading up to the 8th pick to select WR Tavon Austin out of West Virginia University. Almost all of the offseason chatter among mainstream media has surrounded the lightning quick Austin and his potential impact on the Rams. One can’t help but feel giddy about the possibilities when they watch Austin’s highlight reel on YouTube. I must have watched it half a dozen times…in the first 72 hours following the draft. With over 1.7 million views its pretty clear that I’m not the only one who is excited about the Rams first selection in the draft. With all the excitement surrounding Austin its easy to forget that the Rams made another pick in the first round of this years draft. The addition of Austin is sure to have an impact on the Rams retooled offense, but the second player selected by the Rams may have just as big of an impact in his rookie season.
Alec Ogletree is an outstanding athlete with rare physical gifts, at 6’2″ and 242 lbs his 40 time of 4.7 seconds is good, but when watching film he seems even faster. Ogletree was ranked as the #1 ILB by ESPN’s team of draft experts and would likely have been a sure fire top 15 pick if not for his DUI arrest only days before the NFL combine. While that mistake certainly cost him some money it may have allowed him to land in an ideal spot with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have been searching for a outside linebacker to play alongside James Laurinaitis who can cover as well as chase down running plays to the outside. Ogletree used to play safety in college and has great coverage skills for a linebacker, but his best skill may be in chasing down runners that try to bounce to the outside. Watching his highlight film it is on the plays where he pursues the ball carrier across the field that his speed and athleticism really stand out. By bringing in Ogletree to help with coverage and pursuit responsibilities it should free up Laurinaitis to play closer to the line of scrimmage and make more plays on ball carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage.
The biggest weakness in Ogletree’s game, according to the draft experts, is his inability to consistently take on and shed blockers to make a tackle. The good news for the Rams and Ogletree is that he will be lining up behind perhaps the best defensive line in all of football. So far the reports from training camp indicate that Michael Brockers is virtually unstoppable and I anticipate he will regularly command double teams. With Brockers and the rest of the defensive line commanding so much attention from the offensive lineman Ogletree wont have to deal with guards and centers in the 2nd level very often. The Rams are fortunate to find a player with Ogletree’s skillset and athleticism as they will see Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson two times each season for the foreseeable future. Ogletree’s pursuit abilities should help the Rams to limit the damage these two mobile quarterbacks can do, and might even cause their offensive coordinators to think twice before calling a read option play.
Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree both possess rare athleticism and talent and should be able to provide immediate dividends for the Rams. The biggest difference between the two players and their anticipated impact is that Ogletree will be largely surrounded by proven Pro-bowl caliber players, which will allow him to play to his strengths and adapt to the NFL. Tavon Austin is going to be a key component to what is a very young and unproven offense, that and the pressure of being the #8 overall pick and the hype surrounding him could pose challenges as the season progresses. I don’t anticipate that Jeff Fisher and his staff will ask too much of Austin too soon, but the spotlight will certainly be on the young wideout. Rams fans everywhere are chomping at the bit to see how Austin will use his speed and vision to make game changing plays, but don’t sleep on the potential game changing rookie the Rams will have on the other side of the ball. Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!