The Ravens have a big hole in the middle of their defense with the retirement of future Hall of Famer
And now they could have a chance to get arguably the most talented inside linebacker in the draft: Georgia’s Alex Ogletree.
But the problem with Ogletree is that he could be available to the Ravens at pick No. 32 because off-the-field issues may drop him down teams’ draft boards. The versatile defender was arrested for driving under the influence earlier this month, and missed four games last year for allegedly failing a drug test.
When he arrived in Indianapolis last week for the combine, his goal was to show teams that he’s not as troubled as the recent incidents may suggest.
“I’m a good person at heart,” Ogletree said when he met with the media. “Everybody makes mistakes. I feel real bad about the situation. I’m learning from it and I’m moving forward.”
Ogletree, 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, is widely regarded as one of the top-15 prospects in this year’s class based on his skill set. He’s a converted safety with stellar sideline-to-sideline speed and he led Georgia with 111 tackles this season, despite missing four games because of the suspension.
His hope now is that recent run-ins with the law don’t drop him out of the first round.
“I don’t really know what it’s going to do,” Ogletree said. “But, like I said, I feel bad about it and I’m very sorry about it. I just have to move forward and take whatever I get.”
When Ogletree talked with the media Saturday, he had only met with two teams at the combine – the Ravens were not one of them – and he said that the off-the-field issues were brought up as part of the interview process.
“I talked to the teams and we had good discussions about it,” he said. “[I need to be] a good person and just let them get to know me and see who I really am and not what they just hear about me.”
Ogletree played safety during his freshman season at Georgia, but made the move to linebacker in Georgia’s 4-3 defensive scheme before his sophomore season. He’s only played linebacker for two years, and is still somewhat raw at the position.
He projects to be an inside linebacker in the NFL, but has only played in a 4-3 defense, so there are questions about how he would fit with the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme. Ogletree insists he could work in either system, and that he’s comfortable at inside linebacker rather than being moved outside as an edge rusher.
“All I know right now is middle linebacker,” Ogletree said.
One of the key assets that Ogletree brings to table is his speed, which fits today’s evolution of the NFL game. Rather than teams having a big, run stuffing middle linebacker, they are looking for players who can get out in coverage and also chase down mobile quarterbacks like San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Washington's Robert Griffin III.
“I think that’s a big part of my game,” Ogletree said. “I like to play sideline to sideline. I try to use my speed to my advantage. When I can strike somebody, I do that.”
While Ogletree’s off-the-field issues could push him to the back of the first round, it will likely still be difficult for him to get all the way to the Ravens. Teams like the Chicago Bears (pick No. 20), Vikings (No. 23) or Packers (No. 26) could all use an inside linebacker with Ogletree’s abilities.
The next few weeks will go a long way in determining if teams think it’s worth investing a first-round pick on him, and his goal is to show that more trouble doesn’t await at the professional level.
“I have to be accountable and be responsible,” he said. “Be a grown man and be accountable for my actions.”