In today's age of pass-heavy offenses, finding the right player at the outside linebacker or defensive end position is crucial.
Pass-rushers are a premium, but players who can play on all three downs effectively are coveted above all else.
Coming from one of the best defenses in the history of college football, Courtney Upshaw plays well in just about every aspect of the game. He may not be an absolute terror off the edge, but whoever drafts him is going to get a quality football player, and here is why.
The best defenses in today's NFL are able to utilize a myriad of schemes and pressure concepts, flopping back and forth between 4-3 and 3-4 looks. Having a player that can play on all three downs is crucial to this style of defense.
Upshaw played linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at Alabama, but some scouts prefer him with his hand in the dirt as a base 4-3 end.
If he is a better fit in a 4-3, he at least has the experience to play either position, which makes him all the more valuable in the NFL. The more things you do, the better.
When you are a bit undersized like Upshaw is, having proper technique and fundamentals is key to being successful at the next level.
Upshaw uses his hands well and has great pad level at the point of attack. As a pass-rusher, he has a variety of moves and uses them well, especially his swim.
His foundation will serve him well as he prepares to make a position change in the NFL.
When you look at the highest-paid defensive ends and linebackers in the game, you won't find too many run-stuffers atop the list. Careers are made on sack totals, and Upshaw's ability can make him a lot of money
As I previously stated, Upshaw's technique is what helps him compensate for his lack of long arms. However, he also produces great explosion off the line and can get a step on his opponent. He is also a bit more fluid than given credit for.
Upshaw is simply about as sound of a tackler as they come. Rarely does he go for the big hit, but that does mean he cannot lay the lumber from time to time.
What makes Upshaw so good is a combination of his technique and his upper body strength; he does not let many running backs run through his arm tackles.
This is one area of the game in which Upshaw's compact size is favorable to a longer, lighter and lankier body that scouts tend to favor.
Of course, no matter how much ability a player may have, it can all be flushed away if a player's focus and drive is not there. Playing for a well-coached and disciplined defense throughout his college career, Upshaw should have a smoother transition to the NFL than most.
During the spring of 2011, Upshaw started the "41 Fund" as an effort to help those in the devastated by the tornadoes throughout Alabama.
Every year, there are talented first-round picks who waste their talents; I don't see Upshaw as being one of those guys.