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Can Colts TE Drew Ogletree Become the Next Mo Alie-Cox?

The Colts’ sixth-round pick comes to the team very raw but full of potential.

Shortly after becoming the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, Chris Ballard took a chance on a young man who had not played football since his freshman year of high school.

The Colts signed Mo Alie-Cox in April of 2017, a guy known more for being a standout basketball player at VCU. While it had been a long time since Alie-Cox had strapped on the pads, Ballard saw the athleticism that Alie-Cox possessed.

The Colts began to teach Alie-Cox the ins and outs of the tight end position. Former basketball players had made the switch to tight end before, such as Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, and former Colt Marcus Pollard. With patience and the right coaching, the Colts believed Alie-Cox could do the same.

Five years later and the investment has paid off. Alie-Cox has transitioned into the Colts’ top tight end and is a vital part of the offense. The Colts rewarded him with a three-year, $17.55 million contract extension this offseason, including $8.2 million guaranteed.

After seeing the development of Alie-Cox and the kind of player he has turned into, can the Colts do it again with another raw tight end prospect? They are certainly hoping so.

The Colts selected tight end Drew Ogletree out of Youngstown State with the No. 192 pick in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Ogletree started his career as a wide receiver at Division II Findlay before transferring to Youngstown State, where he played his final two seasons. Ogletree had 91 catches for 1,147 yards and 10 touchdowns in 44 career collegiate games.

While the positions can be similar in some aspects, it is not always easy for a former wide receiver to transition to the tight end position. Many more blocking responsibilities come with being a tight end, and the position as a whole is much more physical. Ogletree experienced all of that with his transition.

“I thought it was smooth in the passing game honestly because once I put my hand up out of the dirt, once I get out of my stance, I feel it’s just like I’m running a normal route like I am on the outside,” Ogletree explained. “Transitioning into the run game and everything, it was a little slow at the beginning because I didn’t know the correct footwork, hand placement, leverage to hold my block but as the spring went on and fall camp rolled around, I felt like I started to improve a lot more, started to learn the lingo a little better and then understand where I needed to be in what situation.”

Ogletree certainly has the physical tools to transition to tight end. He stands 6’5” and 260 pounds with an almost 82-inch wingspan, giving him a very large catch radius. Ogletree also ran a 4.70 40-yard dash with a 35-inch vertical at his pro day, displaying solid speed and explosion for an athlete his size.

In the passing game, Ogletree can win at all three levels of the field with his wide receiver background. He will have to clean up his drops as he had eight drops over his final two seasons. The most improvement will be needed in the running game as Ogletree will continue working on his run blocking.

“Something I’d like to improve on is just that run blocking honestly,” he admitted. “In the pass game, I’m so comfortable there, I’ve been there for all my life really, then just going down to block some of the big guys, try to improve on hand placement, footwork and everything like that.”

Here is an excerpt from Dane Brugler of The Athletic on Ogletree.

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Ogletree plays with the agility and control of a smaller athlete and uses his long, galloping strides to work to open space. He has the catch radius to pull in difficult throws over defenders, but will also drop too many easy ones. He didn’t find the end zone at YSU. As a blocker, he is willing, but needs to improve his knee bend and aiming points to leverage his man. Overall, Ogletree’s stats don’t jump off the page, but his tape shows an agile-footed big man who is still discovering how good he can be.

But as mentioned before, the Colts have experience with raw players making the switch to tight end. Ogletree thinks that one of the reasons the Colts were so interested in him was because of his lack of playing time at the tight end position.

“Definitely that they can mold me into whatever they want because I’ve only played tight end for only one year and I have a receiver background,” Ogletree said when asked what the Colts were most interested in with the young prospect. “I think I put some pretty good stuff out on film of me playing tight end. I feel like I’m a ball of clay, they can mold me however they want, however they see fit.”

When looking at what Ogletree’s impact could be this season, he has a long way to go to reach the field. The Colts already have three tight ends that are expected to see the majority of the action with Alie-Cox, second-year player Kylen Granson, and rookie Jelani Woods. It would seem like Ogletree is a longshot at supplanting any of those three.

However, the Colts aren’t expecting Ogletree to have a major impact right away. This is a bet on his upside, and the rookie will be given plenty of time to work on his game and refine his skills at the tight end position.

Patience will be needed with Ogletree, but who knows? The Colts may just be able to find a diamond in the rough once again.

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