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Upshaw can thrive with Ravens

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Posted April 27, 2012 @ 7:56 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw did not fall into Round Two by accident. First, the negatives on Upshaw, from PFW personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki’s 2012 Draft Preview writeup:

“Has small hands. Average arm length — can be engulfed by bigger blockers (and was swallowed in drills at the Senior Bowl). Is wound tightly and lacks ideal edge burst and acceleration to take the corner. Average agility and coverage range — labors to flip his hips and can be stressed by quick backs in space. Is best when he is turned loose with simple assignments and allowed to attack. Average Combine showing — appeared out of shape, turned off coaches with lack of urgency jogging between drills, was very late to react and transition in change of direction and opted not to run. Character requires some scrutiny. Average booksmarts.”

In short, the Ravens’ selection of the 6-1, 272-pound Upshaw at No. 35 isn’t without some downside risk for Baltimore.

But count me among those who believe Upshaw can be a productive pro, particularly in this defense. Upshaw is a tough, physical presence on the edge. The Ravens need that after the departure of Jarret Johnson in free agency.

Also, I liked what I saw from Upshaw at the Senior Bowl. After one of the South practices, I asked about him about his style of play, which he described thusly:

"With me, it's all about getting leverage on them, keeping my gap,” Upshaw said of playing with power, his preferred method. “And by doing it, you've got to strike 'em, because they're trying to come out. Half the time they expose their chest, so with me, I want to get into their chest before they get into me, because they'll hold you.

"So with me, I like to strike. The contact part, man, I love it."

In January, Upshaw looked like a very good bet to be selected in Round One, and before Baltimore ever had a chance at No. 29. That changed. Upshaw's stock fell.

The Ravens? They traded out of Round One completely on Thursday night, acquiring this pick in the process. It's hard to have qualms with that move six spots down the board now. I think the Upshaw-Ravens pairing will be fortuitous for player and team. Upshaw joins a smart, tough, veteran defense, and he can help that defense both in the short- and the long-term.

This is one of the best player-team fits that we have seen in the first two days of the draft. Upshaw is tailor-made for this Ravens’ scheme.

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