So I was shocked, like I imagine many Ravens were, when they chose to pass not only on Upshaw, but on Georgia guard Cordy Glenn and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill with the 29th pick Thursday night.
But then I remembered a phrase popular amongst Ravens' nation that put me at ease, "in Ozzie we trust."
That phrase continued to gain fortitude as Newsome was able to add the Viking's fourth-round pick in a trade down, and still managed to snag Upshaw in the early second round. The pick is considered to be one of the steals of the draft and seems to be just as beneficial for Upshaw as it is for the Ravens.
One of the main knocks on Upshaw is that he is looked upon as too undersized to play every down defensive end in the 4-3 and didn't prove in college that he can drop back into coverage, which obviously scared away some of the 3-4 teams that may have been looking at him as an outside linebacker.
The Ravens however, obviously believe that he can, as the rookie will compete with Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle for the SAM linebacker position left open by Jarrett Johnson's departure in free agency.
Upshaw believes that he'll have no problem with the transition either, even though he primarily focused on rushing the passer in Alabama's 3-4 Championship defense last season.
Who will be the Ravens starting SAM linebacker next season?
In a recent interview with BaltimoreRavens.com, Upshaw had this to say on the subject:
“I did a lot of dropping in coverage in practice more so than I did in the game because, at Alabama, Coach [Nick] Saban just told me to go pass rush and he preferred me to be a pass rusher because I was one of the better pass rushers on the team, but I am willing to do whatever is asked of me, and I am going to come in here with that mindset, just producing at any position.”
Whether or not the Alabama product will be effective in pass coverage remains to be seen, but if he can set the edge in run support and get after the QB like he did in college, he should see plenty of playing time regardless.
Being drafted in round two despite a consensus first round draft grade for months should give Upshaw some extra motivation to prove himself as a pro; and a strong locker room presence and veteran leaders like Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed should be able to assist in the young linebackers development as well.
Any way you spin it, this should end up being a fantastic pick by Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens organization. In the trade back with the Vikings, Newsome was able to get the prospect he wanted at No. 29 anyway, and ended up getting a very under-rated offensive lineman in Gino Gradkowski in the process.