Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The 2012 draft season is here! After the Pats dismantle the G-Men in a couple weeks, we can put the forgettable 2011 season behind us and concentrate on how Dallas will refuel for 2012. My Potential Draft Picks Series is back, and I’m kicking it off with a player in whom we know the Cowboys have some interest. Dallas already met with Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw at the Senior Bowl, and he has versatility to play a few positions at which the ‘Boys are weak. Here are my thoughts on Upshaw and his potential fit in Dallas. . .
I’ll just start by saying it: I think Upshaw is very overrated. His biggest strength, versatility, is negated by the fact that he doesn’t play any single position that well. At 6’2″, 271 pounds, he’s too large to play as an inside backer. In today’s pass-happy NFL, I would send Barry Church out there at inside linebacker before Upshaw.
Upshaw’s height, however, is a major concern as an edge rusher. With an arm length just a hair over 31 inches, Upshaw will have major problems fighting off larger offensive tackles. I see some issues already in college, as Upshaw has trouble getting off of blocks. This leads to very poor run defense when offenses run right at him.
Upshaw is excellent in pursuit, however, frequently chasing down backside runs and bubble screens. He’s a high-motor player who has really, really good play recognition. I watched five games of his and didn’t see him misread a single play. He stays in great position at all times, maintaining leverage to make plays. He sets the edge nicely, which is important for a 3-4 outside backer.
Still, Upshaw’s weaknesses are large and abundant enough that I cannot figure out how he’s a “surefire” first-round pick. A short, heavy linebacker who gets blown off the ball at times and possesses a good but not great pass rush repertoire isn’t what I would be seeking in the first round. Yes, he has versatility to play a few positions, but a player with second or even third-round talent at a few positions doesn’t equate to a first-round draft pick.
Upshaw is going to be a first-round selection, and he figures to go around Dallas’ No. 14 pick. The Cowboys have massive holes in the secondary, but a lot of that can be fixed with a superior pass rush. If Rob Ryan & Co. are thinking along those lines, Upshaw will probably be on their radar. I agree the team could benefit from an upgrade over Anthony Spencer, but I don’t think Upshaw is the answer. In my view, he’s Spencer with worse run-stopping ability.