- The Baltimore Ravens obtained some reinforcements for their roster, executing a solid meat and potatoes draft. Despite trading out of the first round, they landed All-American pass rusher Courtney Upshaw in the second round. Upshaw will compete with Paul Kruger for a starting outside linebacker job. The Ravens obtained 6-5, 333-pound Iowa State offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele with their next second-round pick. He'll compete with Jah Reid for the starting left guard job. The Ravens traded up in the third round to get a backup to Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice: ultra-productive, rugged Temple running back Bernard Pierce. In the fourth round, the Ravens hope they found their eventual replacement for center Matt Birk by drafting Delaware All-American Gino Gradkowski. Later in the fourth round, Baltimore got speedy South Carolina State free safety Christian Thompson. Thompson has been mentored by Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed throughout the draft process. BEST PICK: Linebacker Courtney Upshaw: He fell in the draft because of his sluggish workouts, but he's much different when it's actual football. He relentlessly chases down quarterbacks and stuffs the run with sound leverage. - The Sports Xchange
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Alabama head coach Nick Saban predicts that Upshaw can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or "put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end" in the NFL.
Based on his play in college, regardless of where Upshaw lines up he will probably wind up in a quarterback's mug. Used as an edge rusher, sometimes as the Tide's so-called "Jack" linebacker and sometimes as an end, Upshaw thrashes blockers with great hand and arm action and shows ample speed and agility to find his way into the offensive backfield.
He has instincts beyond that of a pure pass rusher, with an uncommon awareness for draws, screens, counters and reverses. Although he was not asked to drop into coverage often at Alabama, he has a fluid athleticism that may allow him to adapt to such a demand.
In Alabama's 49-7 thrashing of Michigan State in last year's Capital One Bowl, Upshaw was voted MVP after a pair of sacks, five tackles (three for a loss) and a forced fumble. Upshaw benched 225 pounds 22 times at the Combine and like several teammates at Alabama's March 7 Pro Day, deferred a full workout until March 29.
Read and react: Essentially asked to pin his ears back and rush the passer as a weak-side defensive end in the Tide's scheme, though he shows enough play recognition to project as a linebacker. Feels screens coming and locates the running back.
Run defense: More stout at the point of attack when run at than you'd expect, given his lack of ideal size as a hybrid defensive end in Bama's scheme. Plays with excellent pad level and has very good upper- and lower-body strength to anchor. Uses his impressive swim move and quick, heavy hands to slap away the blocker's attempts at getting into his chest, showing the ability to disengage quickly. Good lateral agility to slip past the blocker and set the edge. Unselfish player. Good effort laterally and downfield in pursuit.
Pass defense: Didn't drop in coverage often. Has surprising fluidity when he does and keeps his head on a swivel. Reads eyes and breaks on the ball quickly, showing good agility for his height/weight. Might not be able to do this fulltime, meaning his future is at inside linebacker.
Tackling: This is the area in which scouts from 4-3 teams will want to see more from Upshaw -- little film of him tackling in the open field. Has the lateral agility and balance when breaking down in tight quarters to tackle elusive ballcarriers. Good upper-body strength. Capable of slowing the momentum of the ball carrier with one arm while simultaneously engaged with a blocker. Good effort and speed in pursuit. Physical, explosive tackler who can make the intimidating hit.
Pass rush: One of his best traits. Possesses a good burst off the snap and has an effective a swim move as you'll see in college football. Adept at whipping either arm over the head of the blocker and twisting his body around his opponent to gain clearance with remarkable efficiency. Heavy, active hands which he uses to bat away the tackle's initial punch. Good lateral agility to elude and possesses good straight-line speed for the position. Has a legitimate burst to close on the quarterback and arrives with explosion.
Intangibles: Established "The 41 Fund" during the spring of 2011 to raise money for tornado victims. Was arrested for domestic assault for an August 2009 altercation on campus with his girlfriend, which police happened to be on hand to witness. The charges were ultimately dropped by both parties.