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2011 Stats: 45 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Courtney Upshaw may be the best defensive player on the best defense in all of college football.
Upshaw’s role increased in his junior season, after recording 37 tackles in his two years at Tuscaloosa. While not known for his coverage ability, Upshaw is a complete linebacker prospect who can defend the run and rush the passer.
Upshaw has a great motor and good speed for his size. With his hand in the ground he’s had trouble shedding off blocks and exploding out of his stance, but look for him to play standing up in the NFL.
In general, over his career Upshaw has played against some of the top offensive lineman in the country. His success at the college level should translate to the NFL.
I know at this point it’s a cliche — and that it’s well understood — but it’s worth mentioning again: Bill Belichick likes picking from Nick Saban’s crop of players.
It’s also well understood that the Patriots have little depth at OLB. Aside from Rob Ninkovich, who is not a great pass rusher, but is solid in run support, New England is suffering with Gary Guyton and Tracy White.
The need for an outside linebacker has been pressing for some time with the Patriots, and in 2010 it appeared that New England added permanent bandage. But, how has it began to slip off. Jermaine Cunningham, the band-aid in this sense, had a miserable sophomore season.
One .. 1 .. tackle in nine games miserable.
Drafting Upshaw would give the Patriots an immediate upgrade at the position and a guy who is up-to-the task to start from day one. The question of a prospect’s draft stock often boils down to his 40-yard dash.
If Upshaw runs well, as in 4.65-4.68, he will be a first round prospect. Never once in New England has Bill Belichick drafted a OLB in the first round.
But there’s a first time for everything, right?