Rams trade up to select wide receiver in the first round of 2013 NFL draft

News-DemocratApril 26, 2013 

St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

ZIA NIZAMI/BND

— The St. Louis Rams made an aggressive move to fill their greatest need, trading up from 16th to eighth in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft to select West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin.

The Rams gave up their second-round pick and their seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in making the deal. They also swapped picks with the Bills in the third round, moving up to No. 71 to No. 78.

The Rams sought the trade because they were concerned that the New York Jets would take Austin with the No. 9 overall pick.

"They did give up a lot, but that's going to make me work harder to give out a lot,'' Austin said of the trade.

The Rams weren't done dealing. They dealt the No. 22 overall pick that they received last year from Washington in the trade that enabled the Redskins to select quarterback Robert Griffin III, to the Atlanta Falcons.

In return, they received a first-round pick (30th overall), third-round pick (92nd overall) and sixth-round pick (198th overall) from the Falcons.

With the 30th pick, the Rams took Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Coach Jeff Fisher said the Rams went into the draft with a plan, and they executed it.

"I would have to say that we are very excited to say the least,'' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "It's a scenario that we had been discussing for several days. In this particular draft, a hard thing to accomplish with the way it fell and what we were able to do. We got two very explosive, talented young players who are going to help us right away.''

Fisher proposed a scenario where the Rams would trade up with one first-round pick and down with the other during his pre-draft press conference.

"I was actually telling the truth,'' Fisher said.

Ogletree comes with off-the-field baggage. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence less than two weeks before the NFL combine. He also was charged with theft after stealing a motorcycle helmet from a Georgia track and field athlete during his freshman year and he was suspended for the first four games of his junior season last season for violating the team's substance abuse policy.

"I was dumb, and I made a mistake in my life and I'm just was ready to move forward and start this new chapter in my life,'' Ogletree said of what he told the Rams when they asked about his problems.

Fisher said the Rams weren't concerned about Ogletree's character.

"We had him for a visit and talked to him at the combine and spent time with him, and we're convinced he's looking forward to the future and understands how to do things right and knows that this is a great opportunity for him,'' Fisher said of Ogletree. "He's a very, very talented player.

"People are going to make mistakes. I think this was a maturity issue. He learned very quickly tonight what kind of effect those choices have.''

If not for the character issues, Fisher said Ogletree could have been a Top 10 pick.

"I would say Top 10, Top 15 at the worst,'' Fisher said.

The 5-foot-8, 172-pound Austin was widely considered the most dynamic receiver in the draft. He was officially timed at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but some scouts had him as low as 4.27 seconds on their stop watches.

Austin had 215 catches for 2,475 yards and 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He had 114 catches for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as a senior. He had 101 catches for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns two years ago.

"You look at his college career and what he has accomplished,'' Fisher said. "The fact that he has not missed a game, and what he has accomplished. The explosive plays week after week after week. We felt like needed a player who created mismatches. He helps to create that for our entire offense now.''

Despite his lack of size, Austin said he's never missed a game because of injury.

"I haven't missed a game in eight years,'' Austin said. "That's through high school and college. I'm just going to try to come into the league and take care of my body and try to do the same thing.''

Austin had a feeling that the Rams were interested in him, especially after they requested a private workout within the last week.

"When I went there for a visit, I definitely connected well with all the coaches,'' Austin said. "Coach Fisher and the general manager (Les Snead) and everybody. Then when they came to watch my West Virginia workout, we definitely hit it off then, too.''

Austin is the first wide receiver taken in the first round by the Rams since Torry Holt in 1999.

"That's an honor,'' Austin said. "That's the legend. I watched him when I was young. I just hope I can come in and do the same thing he did when he was young.''

Austin also is an accomplished kick returner. He had four kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown during his college career.

Austin, 22, is a native of Baltimore.

As a senior running back, who also was used a slot receiver, he rushed for 2,660 yards and 34 touchdowns at Dunbar High School.

Austin ended his high school career as the state record holder for points scored with 790, touchdowns with 123, all-purpose yards with 9,258 and rushing yards with 7,962.

The Rams are in need of a slot receiver after Danny Amendola signed as a free agent with New England Patriots.

Ogletree, 21, led the Bulldogs with 111 tackles last season despite missing the four games. He also had three sacks, 11 1/2 tackles for a loss, nine quarterback pressures, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and an interception.

The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder is a former safety who was considered one of the best athletes in the draft at any position.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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