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NFL Draft Player Profile: Courtney Upshaw

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NFL Draft Player Profile: Courtney Upshaw

CREATED Apr 9, 2012

With the NFL draft just over two weeks out, I thought it would be a good time to profile players who have been linked to the Packers in recent mock drafts. I try not to spend too much time on mock drafts published before, or early, in free agency. I like to wait until the free agent dust has settled a little bit to allow teams to make moves to address off-season needs.

Heading into the draft, I believe the Packers single biggest need is a pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews. Recent mock drafts have honed in on a few defensive end/outside linebackers that project to the mid-to-late first round. The first I chose to profile is below.

NAME: Courtney Upshaw

POSITION: Defensive End

COLLEGE: Alabama

HEIGHT / WEIGHT: 6'2" / 272

DRAFT PROJECTION: First round. I've seen him going as high as 16 and as low as 31.

WHAT'S HIS DEAL...

Upshaw was considered among the best pass-rushing outside linebackers in all of college football last season. He was named a first-team All-American by several publications, and a second-team All-American by the Associated Press. 

Upsahw was a finalist for the Lombardi Award (nation's best linebacker or interior lineman) and the Butkus Award (nation's best linebacker) after a season where he recorded 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban believes Upshaw can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense (such as the Packers) or serve as a defensive end in a 4-3 system.

He was arrested for domestic assault in August of 2009 for an on-campus altercation with his girlfriend. The charges were ultimately dropped by both parties.

WHAT SCOUTS ARE SAYING...

STRENGTHS: Upshaw sets the edge as good as any prospect in recent years. He uses his lower body strength to stall blockers and read plays off them to get to the ball in the run game. He understands how to use his hands to stack a block, hold the player in place, shed him and react to the play. He also uses his hands well when covering a tight end at the line of scrimmage. Physical strength, explosion and the ability to overpower offensive linemen to get to the ball carrier are Upshaw's best traits. Upshaw uses brute strength to rush the passer, can leverage tackles at the point of attack and force them into the backfield to create disruption. He also possesses the flexibility and knee bend to dip around tackles when given a step. 

WEAKNESSES: Upshaw is a strong man who has serious lower body power, and at times this can limit his fluid movements. He labors when moving laterally and has slower feet than most productive pass rushers. He is a bull-rusher first and a finesse player second. He can struggle at times pursuing a play across the field. He is much more effective in tight quarters than in space, and there are questions as to whether his athletic ability will be exposed at the next level.