OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After trading out of the first round on Thursday, the Ravens drafted pass rusher Courtney Upshaw from Alabama with the third pick of the second round on Friday night.
The Crimson Tide defensive end is projected to be an imposing pass-rush linebacker who will be a nice option lining up on the opposite side of 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs. At 6-foot-2 and 272 pounds, Upshaw will have the ability to line up at defensive end on passing situations immediately while the Ravens will likely look to develop him as a strong-side linebacker.
Upshaw collected 16 1/2 sacks in his final two seasons at Alabama, where he was a critical member of the 2011 national championship team. He will now compete with third-year linebacker Paul Kruger for the outside linebacker spot vacated by Jarret Johnson, who signed a four-year contract with the San Diego Chargers earlier this offseason.
“I’m a tough physical player,” Upshaw said. “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.”
Much like Johnson did in his days in Baltimore, Upshaw is strong setting the edge against the run despite some critics questioning how his athleticism will translate at the next level. Upshaw revealed earlier this month he took a pre-draft visit with the Ravens, as general manager Ozzie Newsome met with another Alabama alum.
Projected to go in the first round by most draft pundits, Upshaw gives new defensive coordinator Dean Pees another pass-rushing threat for a defense that accumulated an AFC-leading 48 sacks in 2011. Thought Upshaw wasn’t asked to drop into pass coverage often during his collegiate, he played a hybrid “Jack” position that included linebacker and defensive end responsibilities.
“I wasn’t shocked,” said Upshaw when asked if he was surprised to fall out of the first round. “I kind of went into it today hoping I would be a Baltimore Raven honestly. I couldn’t do nothing but smile once I got the call. I tried to get the tough guy act going.”
Though the Ravens’ biggest need was to address the interior of the offensive line, a talent such as Upshaw in addition to the uncertainty at the outside linebacker position made it difficult for Newsome to pass on such a defensive talent.
Offensive linemen Cordy Glenn, Peter Konz, and Jonathan Martin as well as wide receiver Stephen Hill were all remaining on the board when the Ravens made their first selection of the second round.
Hoping to continue their tradition of excellent defense, the Ravens hope Upshaw is just the next in a long line of impact defenders selected in the draft over the history of the franchise.
“Courtney will provide great competition,” coach John Harbaugh said. “There will certainly, obviously, be tremendous depth. It adds one more guy into the mix in special teams. Obviously, it makes us more physical on defense. We will continue to be physical and stay physical, because that’s the kind of player he is.”
Hear Upshaw’s conference call with the Baltimore media on Friday evening here.
Listen to Courtney Upshaw’s interview with WNST.net’s Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” on April 16 here.
Check out Upshaw’s Wikipedia profile here.