Name: OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw
Size: 6'1.5, 272 lbs
Expected Round: 1, Top 20
Strengths: Experienced as a 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE. Very disciplined at maintaining his gap assignment. Relentless. Great pursuit angles. Gets great drive and his height allows him leverage against tackles. Willing to play contain if other players can make the play. Ferocious power.
Weaknesses: Not an elite first step off the snap. Not extremely fast. Not asked to drop into coverage. Only used in the open field against players out of the backfield- how will he react to open field players such as a TE or WR as an OLB in the flat?
What is their role? Would be the pass rushing OLB to complement Rob Ninkovich.
Will it change from year 1 to year 2? Upshaw could learn to drop into coverage to become a more well rounded outside linebacker.
How many downs can he play? Three downs as the run stuffer and the pass rusher.
Which current player will he beat out? Jermaine Cunningham, Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias.
What’s his ST value? Played on the coverage unit as a freshman- could definitely add value.
Does he have positional versatility? 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DE, 3-3 DE. Has played numerous roles in a Nick Saban defense (Saban was Bill Belichick's defensive coordinator back in Cleveland).
Why the Patriots? The Patriots need a game changing player in their defensive front seven. Upshaw is a versatile player in a Belichick-type defense. Upshaw can rush the passer and be stout against the run. He fits the Patriots need and the qualifications of a top round pick.
Why not the Patriots? Upshaw has limited size and that cannot be taught. He may not have the speed to ever drop into coverage. He also may be drafted far before the Patriots have a pick, which means the Patriots would likely have to pay to trade up to take him.
Verdict: I don't think the speed is much of an issue as Upshaw reminds me of the Brandon Spikes of OLBs. May not test well, but his instincts and production are undeniable. If Upshaw falls down the draft, he would make an excellent pick for the Patriots, even if they had to trade up a few picks to grab him. However, if he goes off the board in the top 16, then I don't think the Patriots would think of moving up to get him.