Courtney Upshaw (41) takes a bow after making a quarterback sack during the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. (Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw

Editor’s Note: As we get ready for the 2012 NFL Draft, we’ll be “meeting” some players who just might find their way to Buffalo come April. In this series we’ll take a look at possible Bills draft picks and break down their abilities and potential.

Overview: In a draft that’s very short on pass rushers, the high-motor Upshaw will be in high demand. But does he have enough other skills to make it in the NFL?

Strengths: Very productive in his senior season (18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks). Pure pass rusher. Has a bunch of moves, including a great bull rush. Uses his hands very well. Pretty explosive, even when he was hampered by an ankle sprain. Very strong and sheds blocks well. Can play both stand-up 3-4 OLB and as a 4-3 DE. Holds up well against the run at both spots. Doesn’t miss tackles often. Rarely misses an assignment. Comes up big in big games – including a great showing in the BCS title game against LSU that earned him defensive MVP honors. Tough enough to play through a sprained ankle in 2010.

Weaknesses: Listed at “just” 6’2, 265 and might be smaller than that, which is certainly below-average size for an NFL pass-rusher. It’s not certain if he has the lateral quickness to drop into coverage in the NFL. Had a 2009 arrest for domestic violence.

How He’d Fit in Buffalo: The Bills are dying for a pass rusher, and there aren’t many elite ones available in this draft. The Bills are no doubt going to look long and hard at this guy. His size is no doubt a big negative, as Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey like taller pass rushers. But the Bills also love guys who were productive for big-time programs, and Upshaw is certainly that. All in all, the team would be lucky to get this man. He’d make an immediate impact.

The Bottom Line: I’m very high on Upshaw. Production and talent-wise, Upshaw’s a top-10 pick. Will he be punished for his smaller stature? If yes, he could drop to the end of the first round…but he also could go as early as #9 to Miami, which is where I had him in my first mock draft yesterday. I think the team that gets him as a very real potential defensive rookie of the year candidate on their hands.

Previously:

Stanford OT Johnathan Martin

Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick

North Carolina DE Quinton Coples 

 

 

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