Typically, a scheme-versatile defensive difference-maker who was also the star of a national championship defense ends up as a first-round pick. Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw shockingly did not, but after trading down out of the first round the Baltimore Ravens pounced on the opportunity to draft him in Round 2.
Was trading down for Upshaw the best move for the Ravens, and did they continue to find value through the 2012 NFL draft? Read through the following slides to find out.
Round 2, Pick 35: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 5
Upshaw is a tremendous football player and a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 defensive scheme. He is not an elite athlete but he is a skilled pass-rushing linebacker who consistently finds a way to come up with big plays.
Upshaw has very good production at Alabama and he has very good instincts. He should be a productive playmaker as both a pass-rusher and run-stopper in the NFL.
Round 2, Pick 60: Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 45
Osemele is a massive offensive lineman who is a very good fit to kick inside to guard. He was a productive left tackle at Iowa State but lacks the feet to continue playing that position in the NFL. That said, he is a solid pass-blocker who should do well in that area as a guard, while also being a strong, physical run-blocker.
Round 3, Pick 84: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 81
Pierce is a big, strong and physical power back. He is also a good athlete and was very productive at Temple. With his ability to run up the middle, he is a tremendous fit to complement Ray Rice, a smaller speed back.
Round 4, Pick 98: Gino Gradkowski, G/C, Delaware
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Gradkowski is a versatile interior offensive lineman who can provide depth at both guard spots and at center. That said, nothing stands out about Gradkowski’s game and he must make a big adjustment from FCS football to the NFL. He has a solid all-around game but development will be crucial if he is to emerge in time as anything more than a backup.
Round 4, Pick 130 (compensatory selection): Christian Thompson, FS, South Carolina State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 273
Thompson was a playmaking safety at the FCS level with a strong combination of size and athletic ability, but he needs to become more consistent in pass coverage for his game to translate to the next level. He is a big-hitting run stopper, but his game must develop for him to contribute on more than just special teams.
Round 5, Pick 169 (compensatory selection): Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 399
Jackson had a good career at the FCS level, but his game is unlikely to translate to the NFL. He is a small cornerback with tight hips, and his flaws as a cover corner were exposed frequently at the Senior Bowl. Jackson is a solid athlete who tackles well, but his best and possibly only chance to contribute will be on special teams.
Round 6, Pick 198: Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 85
Streeter did not have much productivity in his three seasons at Miami but he has big upside as a deep threat with a tremendous combination of size and athleticism. His game is raw and his play has been inconsistent, but if he can become more consistent with catching the ball and a better route runner, he has the potential to be a big receiving weapon.
Round 7, Pick 236: DeAngelo Tyson, DE/DT, Georgia
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Tyson is a big, strong defensive lineman who was a reliable starter but did not stand out during his years at Georgia. He does not generate much pressure, though he is a solid run-stopper who has the size and athletic potential to play 5-technique defensive end and make an impact as a penetrator. He is a solid fit to provide depth at that position.
The Ravens traded Round 1, Pick 29 to the Minnesota Vikings for Round 2, Pick 35 and Round 4, Pick 98.
The Ravens traded down into the second round and still had the opportunity to draft one of the top five prospects in the 2012 NFL draft, Courtney Upshaw. In this case, the Ravens displayed their knowledge of how the draft board would play out and worked it to perfection.
The Ravens traded Round 3, Pick 91 and Round 5, Pick 164 to the Atlanta Falcons for Round 3, Pick 84.
The Ravens gave up their fifth-round draft choice to secure the chance to select Bernard Pierce, who was a good choice for them as a power back who can complement Ray Rice. Of the running backs still available, Pierce was the best fit for the Ravens. Ensuring they would be able to select him was not a bad choice, although it may have been unnecessary.
The Ravens traded Round 4, Pick 124 to the Buffalo Bills in August 2011 for wide receiver Lee Evans.
This trade turned out to be a complete dud for the Ravens. Evans battled injuries last season and only caught four total passes in nine games. As a result of his poor performance, he was released. The Ravens wasted this fourth-round pick.
Courtney Upshaw came into the draft as my No. 5 overall prospect and No. 2 defensive prospect, and the Ravens got him as a second-round draft pick. That is as good as value gets, as the Ravens got the biggest steal of the 2012 NFL draft, a player with the skill set to be a top NFL player.
The Ravens continued to get very solid value with their other Day 2 selections, Osemele and Pierce. They also got a steal in Round 6 with Streeter, whose potential could have warranted a third- or fourth-round selection.
The rest of their Day 3 draft selections, however, were more suspect. Gradkowski and Thompson were both reaches in Round 4, as was Jackson in Round 5.
The 2012 NFL draft came before Terrell Suggs, the Ravens’ star pass-rusher and 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tore his Achilles tendon. The Ravens did not even realize when they drafted Upshaw how big of a need outside linebacker would become. They did, however, draft Upshaw with the intent of replacing Jarret Johnson, who departed via free agency, and Upshaw should not only be able to start right away, but be an immediate upgrade.
The Ravens’ most pressing need coming into the draft was a left guard to replace Ben Grubbs, who also departed via free agency. They addressed that need by selecting Osemele. They also added much-needed depth at both guard and center with Gradkowski.
A power back to complement Ray Rice was also a need for the Ravens and they got a very good fit with Pierce. Depth was also needed in the secondary, which they addressed with Thompson and Jackson, and also at defensive end, where they drafted Tyson.
The Ravens were somewhat thin at wide receiver, so drafting Streeter made sense as well. Across the board, the Ravens addressed all of their areas of need.
In my opinion, the Ravens made the absolute best move of the entire 2012 draft by successfully trading down and still being able to select Courtney Upshaw, who already would have been a huge steal at the No. 29 overall pick they already held.
Upshaw was an outstanding pick but he was not the only great selection the Ravens made in this draft. Kelechi Osemele has the skill set to be a very solid replacement for Ben Grubbs as a starting left guard, while Bernard Pierce should be a significant asset in the running game.
Tommy Streeter has big potential as a wideout and could end up being a major steal if his productivity starts to approach his potential. The rest of the Ravens’ Day 3 draft picks were of questionable value, but all were drafted to provide depth at positions where the Ravens needed it.
The Ravens clearly plan their draft as well as any team in the National Football League, and it showed with a very smart draft both in how they worked the board and with the personnel they added to their roster.