Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
It is very rare for a rookie selected outside the first round to make the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season.
Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the No. 37 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft, is a real long shot to be a rookie Pro Bowler, but as a sleeper pick among rookies to go to Hawaii, he makes sense.
Baltimore’s star outside linebacker and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, is likely to be out most, if not all of the 2012 NFL season due to a torn Achilles.
Additionally, the Ravens’ second starting outside linebacker from last season, Jarret Johnson, left for the San Diego Chargers via free agency.
That means Upshaw, as a rookie, will immediately come in as the Ravens’ top outside linebacker.
While this puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders, it also opens the window for him to immediately become the team’s top pass-rusher in their 3-4 defense.
Upshaw is a polished player, ready to step in and contribute, and has the overall skill set to emerge as a Pro Bowler himself.
Upshaw does not have an explosive burst by NFL standards, but he is a well-rounded player who will be equally effective against the run as he is bringing pressure against the quarterback.
In a conference that includes many other talented outside linebackers including Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tamba Hali of the Kansas City Chiefs, Upshaw will really have to be tremendous from the beginning to make the Pro Bowl, but he has an outside shot.
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Dan Hope is an NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.