The Chicago Bears will be in the market for youth at the linebacker position in this year’s Draft. Two of the top players potentially available at inside linebacker could be Georgia’s Alec Ogletree and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. So, who’s the better prospect? Here’s the tale of the tape:
Ogletree: At Georgia, Ogletree played as a middle linebacker in a 3-4. He spent a majority of his time on the strong side and also had responsibilities against both the run and pass.
Brown: Back at Kansas State, Brown played in a traditional 4-3 scheme at middle linebacker, and he was an all-around player who excelled against both the run and the pass.
Ogletree: Ogletree still has plenty of room to grow as far as technique is concerned, but so far in his career he has shown superb athleticism and great speed to pursue sideline-to-sideline, around the line of scrimmage and through the gaps to get to the quarterback, or running back in the backfield. Ogletree’s combination of size, athleticism and speed makes him an intriguing player to combat against the new wave of athletic TEs in the NFL.
Brown: Brown might not be the same caliber athlete as Ogletree, but he’s also no slouch. He possesses great sideline-to-sideline speed, along with great technique to get to the ball carrier and cleanly make the tackle. He also uses his technique and speed well to cover slot WRs, TEs, and RBs coming out the backfield. His size could possibly be a liability at times, but his technique and high football I.Q. make up for it.
Ogletree: This is a department that will be a weakness early on in Ogletree’s career, because his lack of size and rawness of technique. Ogletree has a habit of not using his hands to shed blocks; making it quite easy for opposing offensive linemen to wash him out of the play. He can also, at times, take bad angles to the ball carrier, allowing the RB to break off a big gain. But when linemen aren’t able to get their hands on Ogletree in space, his elite athleticism stands out.
Brown: Brown can sometimes get engulfed by opposing lineman in the run game, but overall he’s stout against the ground attack. He plays with tremendous speed and quickness, to the point that he makes it hard for blockers to get a body on him. Scouts criticize his size (6-1, 241 lbs.), but it certainly helps him slip through blockers and complete the play. Brown is a technician when it comes to tackling RBs, and despite his size, he is a big hitter.
Ogletree: Brown has an advantage on Ogletree in run defense, but in pass coverage, Ogletree is elite compared to the rest of the competition. Ogletree used to play safety before converting to LB, which explains his naturalness when flipping his hips and running with TEs or going up and making a play on the football.
Ogletree’s size and skills in pass coverage should allow Bears’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to be comfortable lining him up versus the big athletic TEs. He’s still a work-in-progress in zone-coverage but has the potential to get better in that department.
Brown: Brown’s size could get him exposed at the next level against bigger athletic TEs in man coverage. He shows the ability to cover RBs out the back field; displaying good recognition skills, along with speed and quickness to blanket RBs or make a play on the ball. He’s very instinctive and disciplined in zone coverage, which bodes well for the Bears if they do indeed carry over some of the same terminology from the previous coaching staff.
Ogletree: Ogletree is still learning the LB position; there were times where he would misdiagnose plays, take bad angles to the ball carrier or was simply slow to react. There were plenty of times where it looked like he was freelancing instead of sticking to his assignment. If new Bears’ LB coach Tim Tibesar can coach this out of him, Ogletree could potentially be a special player at the position.
Brown: Brown is one of the, if not the, most disciplined LB in the Draft. You rarely see him take bad angles, run around blocks or be out of position in coverage. He shows great awareness in pass coverage, both in man and zone. Brown is a very intelligent player the Bears could plug-and-play on day one at any of the three LB positions.
Ogletree: The potential is there for Ogletree to not only be one of the best ILBs in the NFL, but overall one of the best LBs in the league. He is one of the most physically gifted athletes I have studied in quite some time. He can fly around the line of scrimmage in pursuit of ball carriers; you can use his speed and quickness to rush the passer either from the middle or outside.
In coverage, Ogletree patrols the middle of the field like a ball-hawking FS, showing the ability to make a play on the football. You can match him up with a big, athletic TE and feel comfortable that he can neutralize him throughout the game. Ogletree should be able to contribute immediately in his first year at either WLB or SLB before taking over at MLB.
Brown: Brown has all the tools to be a solid pro for a very long time. While he’s probably the safest LB prospect in this Draft, there’s a good chance he might max out his potential in a couple more years. Outside of ideal size, Brown has all the tools to be one of the better LBs in the NFL, however. He has ability to play any of the three LB spots in a 4-3, but his best position might be at weak-side LB. He compares favorably to current Bears’ star LB Lance Briggs—both players are undersized, but their speed, athleticism and instincts overshadow that particular flaw.
Ideal fit for the Bears: Alec Ogletree
Where the league is at today, with offenses putting a heavy emphasis on pass-catching TEs and slot receivers, having a LB with the ability to cover both would be certainly a luxury for any defense. While Brown is the complete player of the two, Ogletree’s ceiling is higher. If Ogletree is indeed the pick for the Bears at No. 20, G.M. Phil Emery has set the defense up to where it won’t be dependent on a rookie to man the middle. The team added D.J. Williams this off-season, who has plenty of experience at all three LB spots in the 4-3, so if Ogletree is not ready to play at MLB, he could play SLB his first season.
The Bears are in desperate need of young cornerstones on defense, and if Ogletree is past his off-the-field issues and fully takes in the coaching, he could be one of those guys for the Bears.
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