NEW ORLEANS -- One player continues to intrigue me in this year's draft but he comes with a "buyer beware'' tag. His name is Alec Ogletree, a 6-3, 232-pound linebacker who is bypassing his senior season at the University of Georgia.
He might be just what the New Orleans Saints need in their defensive front seven as they transition to a 3-4 under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan.
Ogletree, 21, has all the physical qualities the Saints are looking for in a young, pass rushing outside linebacker (4.62 seconds in the 40) or an inside 'backer who also can stay on the field in pass coverage.
But he comes with baggage.
"As one NFL GM told me, you don't find humans this talented very often,'' said Russ Lande, director of scouting for The National Football Post. "If there were no character issues, he's a legit top 10 pick, a real stud.''
But Ogletree has "character issues,'' so he's not "a legit top 10 pick.''
But at No. 15, where the Saints select in the first round, he might be worth the risk. The operative word here is "might.''
First, let's peek inside his baggage.
As a true freshman, Ogletree was charged with theft after stealing a motorcycle helmet from a Georgia track athlete. Hey, at least Ogletree didn't steal the motorcycle. I'll give him a pass on this one.
He also reportedly failed multiple drug tests, resulting in a four-game suspension to open the 2012 season. Despite his month-long absence, he led the Bulldogs in tackles with 111. Then, he was charged with DUI in Arizona one week before the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Said Ogletree: "I'm a good person at heart, and everybody makes mistakes. I feel really bad about the situation, but I'm learning from it and I'm moving forward.''
"He's a smart player and is no ding-a-ling in terms of smartness,'' Lande said. "In other words, he's not dumb, he just makes dumb decisions. He's one of those kids who doesn't have a great sense of awareness around him.''
Because of Ogletree's checkered past, some teams will push him down their draft boards. But make no mistake, one team is expected to take a flyer on him, probably in the bottom half of the first round, perhaps Chicago, Green Bay, Indianapolis or Houston). In a perfect world, the Saints would trade 8-10 spots down, acquire an additional pick and still get a player in their bullpen.
That player might be Ogletree.
Again, the key word here is "might.'' Unquestionably, he is the ultimate high risk/reward player. One NFL personnel director even labeled him an "immature idiot.'' Yet, despite Ogletree's missteps along life's highway, most mock drafts have him going on Day One.
I'll leave you with this parting thought from Lande.
"It would not surprise me at all if the Saints were considering Ogletree at 15,'' Lande said. "He's a unique talent, explosive, athletic, a violent hitter, excellent in pass coverage, a Pro Bowl-type player. It might behoove them to overlook his issues because he has the potential to become an impact player at the next level.''
That's what makes Alec Ogletree so intriguing. He might be a risk worth taking.
NOTE: By the way, Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones (6-2, 245) also is entering the draft with a red flag because of health issues (neck/spinal stenosis). That said, I would be more concerned with his slow 40 time (4.92 seconds) than his neck. But his numbers don't lie. He led the country last year in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven) and did it against elite competition. Rob Ryan attended Jones' Pro Day last Thursday in Athens, Ga. Jones will undergo a "medical re-check'' April 5-6 in Indianapolis.
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