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Ravens like what they see from Upshaw

The Sports Xchange
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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.

COULD SURPRISE

Wide receiver Tommy Streeter: He isn't your typical sixth-round draft pick. He has the size and speed to emerge as a dangerous red-zone threat. What Streeter needs is polish and more diversity to his route repertoire.

A closer look at the Ravens' picks:

Round 2/35 -- Courtney Upshaw, LB, 6-2, 272, Alabama

He's a no-nonsense, gritty football player. He's eager to prove himself after watching four Alabama teammates get selected in the first round.

Round 2/60 - Kelechi Osemele, OT, 6-5, 333, Iowa State

Osemele excelled in big games. He once did a nice job against former Iowa defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn. A left tackle in college, he projects best to left guard due to a lack of elite mobility.

Round 3/84 --Bernard Pierce, RB, 6-0, 218, Temple

Pierce is a zone runner, extremely physical and durable. He rushed for 3,570 career yards and 53 touchdowns.

Round 4/98 - Gino Gradkowski, C/G, 6-3, 300, Delaware

Gradkowski is making an adjustment to a much higher level of football. Smart and tough, he's the younger brother of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.

Round 4/130 - Christian Thompson, FS, 6-0, 211, South Carolina State

Mobile centerfielder ran a 4.50 at the NFL scouting combine. Big and strong enough to play in the box. Will begin his career on special teams and back up starters Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard.

Round 5, 169 - Asa Jackson, CB, 5-10, 191, Cal Poly

Jackson is a small-school corner who lacks ideal size, but runs fairly well and is durable. He can also return punts where he's expected to be an immediate contributor.

Round 6, 198 - Tommy Streeter, WR, 6-5, 219, Miami

Streeter ran the 40-yard dash is athletic, registering a 10-5 broad jump, a 33-inch vertical leap and bench pressing 225 pounds 17 times. He caught 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

Round 7, 236 - Deangelo Tyson, DL, 6-2, 315, Georgia

Since the Ravens lost Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney to the Colts during free agency, they needed some fresh blood for their defensive line rotation. Tyson is athletic and big enough to have a shot at making this team.

--The Baltimore Ravens upgraded their pass rush and reinforced their run defense by drafting Alabama All-American outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw in the second round Friday night with the 35th overall pick.

The 6-2, 272-pounder built a strong reputation in the Southeastern Conference for his ability to shed blocks and make tackles.

"I think that's his specialty," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "That's one of the things that was so attractive about him. He plays like a junkyard dog. He has a strong punch. He's a physical, violent football player. We're excited about that.

"That's not an easy position to play. A lot of guys can't do that. A lot of guys can rush the passer. A lot of guys can drop and play in space, but setting the edge is really one of the most important things at that position. We feel this guy can do that."

Upshaw endured watching and waiting in the green room at Radio City Music Hall as his Alabama teammates Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower and Dre' Kirkpatrick all went in the first round.

After trading out of the first round where they considered taking Upshaw with the 29th overall pick, the Ravens were still able to obtain Upshaw after passing over Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill, Wisconsin center Peter Konz and University of Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn.

"The wait was a little frustrating at times, but I'm very excited and very happy to be chosen in the second round and by the Baltimore Ravens," Upshaw said during a conference call before boarding a train to Baltimore. "I wasn't shocked. I went into today kind of hoping that I'd be a Baltimore Raven. I can't do nothing but smile once I got the call."

Upshaw recorded 141 career tackles, 36 1/2 for losses, 17.5 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures.

Last season, he emerged as an All-American as he finished with 52 tackles, 17 for losses, 8.5 sacks and one interception.

Upshaw, who visited and worked out for the Ravens, will compete with Paul Kruger for the starting strong-side linebacker position vacated by outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. Johnson signed with the San Diego Chargers during free agency.

"Obviously, it bolsters our linebacker situation," coach John Harbaugh said. "I think Paul is still the lead dog there. It will give us another pass rusher. There will certainly be tremendous depth. Obviously, it makes us more physical on defense."

Meanwhile, the Ravens drafted Iowa State offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele in the second round with the 60th overall selection. Osemele is a 6-5, 333-pound All-Big 12 Conference blocker who has lined up at left tackle and offensive guard.

He's slated to compete immediately with Jah Reid for the left guard vacancy created by Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs signing a $36 million contract with the New Orleans Saints.

Harbaugh said that Osemele will also be evaluated in comparison to left tackle Bryant McKinnie and right tackle Michael Oher.

"I think left guard or right tackle," Harbaugh said. "I think that will just let those guys compete and see also who meshes better where."

Osemele expected to go higher in the draft.

"I'll just use that as a motivator more than anything to help fuel me when I first get in there and try to prove everybody wrong and try to prove the naysayers wrong," Osemele said. "I feel like I bring a lot of competitiveness and I feel like I bring a lot of physicality and aggression to the table."

The Ravens drafted bullish Temple junior running back Bernard Pierce in the third round, acquiring him with the 84th overall pick acquired in a trade from the Atlanta Falcons.

Baltimore sent their third-round pick, 91st overall, and fifth-round pick, 164th overall, to position themselves to draft Pierce, who immediately becomes the front-runner to back up Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice ahead of Anthony Allen and Damien Berry.

Pierce rushed for 3,570 career yards and scored 53 touchdowns. He set a career-high with 1,481 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last season.

"I just want to come on the team and contribute any way I can," said Pierce, who visited the Ravens. "I'm happy to be a Raven. I'm a big back. I'm not going to go down easy. I'm going to fight for every yard."

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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