MLB decision could come down to character

The Vikings are showing interest in each of the first-round middle linebacker prospects, but the top candidate has to prove his character more than his athleticism.

The Vikings' full-spectrum character assessment was in play when they reportedly hosted first-round prospect Alec Ogletree during the "top 30" dinner earlier this month.

Ogletree is one of the great draft conundrums this year: A player full of talent but with concerns about his character. First, the character issues that the Vikings were surely looking to delve into with him during his visit to Minnesota:

As a freshman in 2010, Ogletree was suspended for the season opener after he was arrested for "theft-by-taking") after allegedly stealing a scooter helmet outside of a University of Georgia building.

In 2012, he was suspended for the first four games for violating unspecified team rules, reportedly for a failed drug test. Then in February, with the NFL Scouting Combine only weeks away, he was arrested and charged with DUI in Arizona.

He was asked about those indiscretions during his interviews at the combine and wanted to change the perception.

"I'm a good person at heart. Everybody makes mistakes. I feel real bad about the situation. I'm learning from it and I'm moving forward," he said.

"I have to be accountable and be responsible, be a grown man and be accountable for my actions."

On the field, there are fewer questions about his abilities, despite the fact that he started out playing safety at Georgia.

In his three-year college career, he started 22 of 30 games – 17 at weakside inside linebacker and five at strong safety, recording 197 tackles, including 20 for a loss, six sacks and 15 quarterback hurries. He also broke up eight passes, intercepted one, forced four fumbles, recovered one fumble and blocked a punt.

His junior season in 2012 was easily the most impressive. He led the team with a career-high 111 tackles, 11½ of them for losses, had three sacks, recovered two fumbles and caused one.

In 2011, his first year playing linebacker, he missed six games with a foot injury that required surgery after the season opener.

He knew before his final bowl game on New Year's Day against Nebraska that he was going to declare for the NFL draft and produced 13 tackles, three of them for a loss, forced and recovered a fumble and had a sack.

According to his assessment from the NFL Draft Report, he is rarely caught out of position and keeps the coverage in front of him.

"I'm very comfortable with my skills. I think I'm very versatile. I can cover and come up against the run and hit. I can just fill the gap," Ogletree said.

"I'm very versatile. I can come off the edge or play in the middle. It doesn't really matter, but like I said, I've been playing middle linebacker and that's all I know really."

His versatility has been shining through for years now. In high school, he played free safety, wide receiver, tight end and outside linebacker at Newnan (Ga.) High School. He was recruited to Georgia as a free safety after earning a coveted five-star ranking from, which ranked him the third-best outside linebacker in the nation, the seventh-best player in the South and the No. 22 overall in the nation.

He had scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Georgia Tech, but he and his twin brother (Alexander, a fullback) chose Georgia.

Three years later, Alec is considered the most athletic and talented middle linebacker prospect in the draft, but his off-the-field blemishes have teams trying to decide whether they can trust him to stay out of trouble. The Vikings likely got a good read on that assessment during his visit to Minnesota and they continue to show an interest in him in the weeks leading up to the draft.

Whether he is even available with their pick at No. 23, and whether they are willing to spend a first-round pick on him, will have wait almost two more weeks to be answered.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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