Has a nice first step with good straight-line speed off the edge. Comfortable playing with his hand on or off the ground. Flashes bend to get under the blocker's pads and turn the corner when coming off the edge, particularly in a wide technique. Will use a swim move and inside counter against a lesser tackle. And flashes the burst and hand use to become an effective bull rusher off the edge. Can get leverage at the point of attack, particularly when taking on the tight end or lead blocker. Does a nice job sniffing out screens and making stops in pursuit. Has the speed and burst to make plays on the backside pursuit. Is able to defend the flat and keep the back from bouncing plays outside, and comfortable coming downhill to make stop on the sweep or outside run. Has a good motor and does a nice job working to the quarterback. Has some experience working in coverage, particularly on zone blitzes, and has decent hips for his size.
Doesn't play with great instincts against the run. Tends to play on his heels when it comes to taking on blocks on the edge, as well as filling against the inside run. Will get pushed off the ball at times when taking on tackles. Will lose outside contain too much on the misdirection plays or quarterback bootlegs. Doesn't really wow you with his first step off the edge. Needs work and polish in coverage.
Upshaw is a good effort pass rusher that has the potential to play either end or linebacker at the next level. At Alabama, he wound alternate between the two, able to show he could effect the game at either position. He's at his best coming downhill off the edge. Most of his plays against the run come in pursuit, where he has good straight-line burst and speed. As a pass rusher he has a good first step, but it's not a guy that is going to blow by most of the better tackles he faces. But he flashes the potential to develop a better array of pass rush moves to help offset that lack of elite burst. He's a playmaker that always managed to show up in their big games, but he doesn't have the ideal physical tools that project well to the NFL.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(10/22) vs. Tennessee: 1 sack, 1.5 stuffs, 2 pressures, 1 FF
(11/5) vs. LSU: 1 sack, 2 stuffs, 1 pressure, 2 QB hits
(1/9) vs. LSU: 1 sack, 0.5 TFLs, 0.5 stuffs, 0.5 pressures
2011: 13 GP/12 GS, 52 tackles, 18.0 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, 1 INTs, 0 PDs, 2 FF, 0 FR
- missed 2 starts in 2010 with a high ankle sprain
Upshaw reminds me a bit of LaMarr Woodley in that he's a bit of a tweener that doesn't have the elite athleticism that teams are looking for in those types of players (like compared to an Aaron Maybin), but winds up being a pretty good pro player because he just knows how to play football. Like Woodley, I think he'll work best in a 3-4 and on a team that he'll have someone opposite him that can also put pressure on the QB. In such a scheme/situation, I think he can be a productive pass rusher that can give you 8-10 sacks. He played at around 270, and I think he's best off slimming down the 265-270 range than where he was this off-season. I'm not sure if his bulking up is because of him wanting to be an end, or whether because his work ethic isn't all that. I think he can play end in a 4-3, but I don't think he would make a great end. He lacks the ideal first step to really set up guys there, and unless he improves his technique and adds an array of moves, I think his production would be more in line with a 6-sack complementary guy than a guy that scares teams. I think he's a solid starting end like Alex Brown, that if he's playing opposite a Pro Bowler you'd be happy with him, but there's nothign special about his potential there. I think his potential is much higher as a 3-4 guy. He'll need some more seasoning in coverage, playing in space, and showing more awareness and discipline as a run defender, but I do think he'll get better there. Like a Woodley or Terrell Suggs, he might not be the best player on a top-notch defense, he'll be an integral part of that defense. That's what he was at Alabama, and I think in the right scheme that plays him on the edge and wants him to attack upfield most of the time, he'll be very good in that role.
LaMarr Woodley, Steelers.
Upshaw would play end in the Falcons scheme, at least initially as they transition to the 3-4. And while I don't think he's got the ideal skills to be an elite guy in Nolan's scheme, I do think he's a good foundation piece for the Falcons to build their base 3-4 around. He would like fill a similar role as Cameron Wake and Elvis Dumervil have in Nolan's scheme, which is primarily as a pass rusher. And while like those two he has the potential to be a double-digit sack guy, he's going to need a bit more talent around him to really maximize his skillset. As a rookie, he'd likely work predominantly as a situational rusher and carve out a bigger role in Years 2 and 3. But you probably really wouldn't start to see him hit his stride until Year 3, when presumably the Falcons would be a full-fledged 3-4 defense and he has gotten more comfortable in the scheme and his role within it.
Upshaw is a solid first round pick that may not have elite potential, but in the right scheme can be a very good player. He's ideally probably taken in the latter half of the round, somewhere between picks No. 15 and 25.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Point of Attack: 6.0
Pass Rush: 7.5
Scouting reports of the inside and outside linebackers in the 2012 Draft.
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