9

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB Alabama

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB Alabama

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

Player information:

  • Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
  • 6-foot-2, 279 lbs.
  • Upshaw surprisingly weighed in at 279 lbs at the Alabama Pro Day, 6lbs heavier than he weighed at the NFL combine. He says he feels “250″ thanks to workouts he’s been doing, but wanted to come in under 270. Reportedly ran a 4.77 40 yard dash.

NFL Combine:

  • N/A 40-yard dash
  • N/A 20-yard shuttle
  • N/A 3-cone drill
  • N/A broad jump
  • N/A vertical jump
  • 22 bench press reps
  • 32″ arm length
  • 9″ hands

News & Notes:

A two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, Upshaw notched 17 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss in those two seasons.  He played both defensive end and linebacker, with primary responsibility to get after the quarterback. Upshaw consistently was at his best in big games – doesn’t shy away from the pressure.

What they’re saying about him:

Frank Cooney (CBS Sports): “Alabama coach Nick Saban predicts Upshaw can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or “put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end” in the NFL. Based on his play in college, regardless of where Upshaw lines up, he will probably wind up in a quarterback’s mug. Used as an edge rusher, sometimes as the Tide’s so-called “Jack” linebacker and sometimes as an end, Upshaw thrashes blockers with great hand and arm action and shows ample speed and agility to find his way into the offensive backfield. He has instincts beyond that of a pure pass-rusher, with an uncommon awareness for draws, screens, counters and reverses. Although he was not asked to drop into coverage often at Alabama, he has a fluid athleticism that may allow him to adapt to such a demand.”

National Football Post (Wes Bunting):  ”I like him as a 34 outside backer who can play on the strong side, take on linemen at the point and also rush the passer. He’s at his best attacking downhill, using his strong hands to disengage and always is around the football. Looks like a year one starter to me at the next level with scheme versatility.”

NFL Combine: “…due to his size, strength, and play against the run, Upshaw has late first-round talent. Look for him to pair with a pass-rush specialist opposite of him at outside backer in a 3-4 scheme where he can set the edge, work against tight ends and be a heavy run defender.”

17

February

Could Packers Trade Up in 2012 NFL Draft to Pick a Pass Rusher?

Ted Thompson Packers

Packers GM Ted Thompson traded back into the first round to take Clay Matthews in 2009.

The day was April 25, the Saturday of the 2009 NFL draft, and Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had a franchise-altering decision staring him in the face.

As he sat in the Packers’ war room, having already acquired nose tackle B.J. Raji from Boston College with the ninth overall pick, there was a name he couldn’t shake and a need he knew he needed to fill.

The name was Clay Matthews, and the need was 3-4 outside linebacker.

Matthews, a wavy-haired overachiever with Hall of Fame bloodlines, remained available as the first round came to a close. A walk-on at USC who didn’t play full-time until his senior year, Matthews was an ideal pass rushing outside linebacker for his new defense. And Thompson knew that if there were two positions most important to making the Packers’ new 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Dom Capers work, it was nose tackle and outside linebacker. Raji was the answer inside, Matthews could be the same on the edge.

In his hand was a weapon he rarely held, and uncharacteristically, Thompson pulled the trigger.

A man notorious for trading back in the draft to stockpile picks, Thompson sent a second and two third-round picks to the New England Patriots for the No. 26 pick in the first round and a later fifth rounder.

Shortly after, Roger Goodell announced Matthews as the Packers’ pick, and the rest, as they say, was history. Matthews turned into a superstar, registering back-to-back 10-sack seasons while helping lead the Packers to a Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers just less than 22 months later. Along with sticking with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Thompson’s decision to move up and get Matthews remains a defining moment in his building of a championship puzzle.

Fastforward to this April, and you could argue Thompson is in a similar state of need that he found himself in 2009.

Just a year after reaching the NFL’s peak, Thompson’s defense shattered in 2011. Better yet, it collapsed after under the weight of Thompson’s failure to find a starting-quality outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and his decision not to re-sign highly productive but aging defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who bolted to the Philadelphia Eagles but was entirely open to returning to the Packers. Green Bay won 15 games during the regular season despite giving up more passing yards than any other team in NFL history, then threw away their opportunity to repeat as Super Bowl champions with an undisciplined effort on both sides of the football.