Round 2: Ravens Select DE/OLB Upshaw

With the 35th-overall pick, Baltimore drafted Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, April 27th, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Categories: 2012 NFL Draft, Garrett Downing

Staying patient paid off for the Ravens.

After trading out of the first round Thursday night, General Manager Ozzie Newsome still got the player he wanted, selecting defensive end/outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw from Alabama with the 35th-overall pick.

Many analysts had the Ravens taking Upshaw with the 29th pick, but Newsome again showed his ability to maneuver around the draft by trading back six spots with the Vikings, adding a fourth-round pick (98th overall) and still getting Upshaw.

“I’m sure if you would have asked us back in October, November, if Courtney would make it to the third pick in the second round, everybody probably would have said, ‘probably not,’” Newsome said. “He was a guy that we talked about at No. 29, also.”

Upshaw (6-foot-2, 272 pounds) was one of the leaders of Alabama’s National Championship defense, which has seen four players drafted in the first 35 picks.


Courtney Upshaw Pro Day

“I’m very excited to be chosen by the Baltimore Ravens,” Upshaw said on a conference call Friday night. “The wait was a little frustrating at times, but I’m excited and very happy to be taken in the second round as a Baltimore Raven.”

The talented pass rusher played defensive end and outside linebacker for Alabama, and he had 9.5 sacks last season. He also had 51 tackles, including 17 for loss, and one interception.

“Obviously, it bolsters our linebacker situation,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “It gives us one more player in that mix and will allow us to move some guys around a little bit.”

Upshaw said that playing alongside future Hall of Famers like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed has him excited about joining the Ravens defense.

“That’s the exciting thing about it – it’s not only playing for Ozzie and Coach Harbaugh, but also Ray Lewis,” Upshaw said. “To actually play with Ray Lewis is something you dream of. The leadership that he and Ed brings, Suggs, everybody there.”

Adding him to the roster fills a need that Newsome mentioned at the beginning of the offseason, when he said that the Ravens were looking to bring in additional pass rushers.

“I’m a tough physical player. I feel like I’m relentless, I get after the ball. I’m a playmaker. At the end of the day, I’m a football player and I love the game.”

He will likely compete for the open outside linebacker spot opposite Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, which opened up when veteran Jarret Johnson left in free agency. Upshaw will have to compete with Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle for the starting job.

“I think Paul is still the lead dog there; he’s still the veteran guy,” Harbaugh said. “It will get us another pass rusher. Courtney will provide great competition. Certainly, there will be tremendous depth.”

In addition to his knack for getting after quarterbacks, Upshaw also served as a run stuffer for Alabama, which is likely what he will be asked to do for the Ravens. Johnson’s role as an outside linebacker was primarily to set the edge and stop the run, and Upshaw could likely move into that spot.

“I think that is his specialty,” Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta said about Upshaw’s ability to set the edge. “He plays like a junkyard dog. He’s got a strong punch. He’s a physical, violent football player. We’re excited about that. That’s not an easy position to play.

“Setting the edge is really one of the most important things at that position, and we feel this guy can really do it.”

At the start of the draft process, Upshaw was considered by many analysts to be a top-15 pick, but he slid out of the first round mostly over concerns about whether he will play outside linebacker or defensive end in the NFL.

The worry was whether he has the size to play defensive end, or the speed to be an outside linebacker and drop back into coverage. With the Ravens’ 3-4 defense, his skills as a hybrid pass rusher will likely fit because he can play up on the line of scrimmage to rush the quarterback or step back and play the run.

Upshaw admitted that sliding to the second round was difficult, and he’ll be coming to Baltimore with a chip on his shoulder.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t go in the first round,” Upshaw said.

“Both guys (Upshaw and second-round pick Kelechi Osemele) we got on the phone were a little bit miffed about where they were taken,” Harbaugh said. “They were happy to come to Baltimore. They were both really excited about that, but I think they both feel like they have something to prove.”

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