Imagining Courtney Upshaw

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The Seahawks own the #12 overall selection in the upcoming NFL draft. Signing Matt Flynn, Red Bryant, Jason Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Breno Giacomini, and Paul McQuistan has left the team with the luxury of picking the best player that falls to them. This series will explore some possible selections, and how they could impact the team.

DE Melvin Ingram
OG David DeCastro
MLB Luke Kuechly
DE Courtney Upshaw
LB Lavonte David

Rob Rang Profile of Courtney Upshaw

Upshaw, like Ingram, projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or an undersized defensive end in a 4-3. Beyond that, the two are quite different on the field. Upshaw is a power player, who could be a force against the run and the pass. He is not a fast-twitch rusher who will blow by lineman, and he is not particularly creative in getting to the quarterback. Either he will be able to club or swim his way by a lineman, or he won’t. His effort will be there every play, but his pass rush will be inconsistent. Upshaw’s value is in that he can be a solid all-around player who will give max effort all the time and maximize whatever potential he has. He is not the next double-digit sack player in the NFL.

Seahawks fans have become accustomed to Chris Clemons as the LEO and Red Bryant as the 5-tech end opposite him. Clemons is the constant pass rusher who collect 10+ sacks, and Bryant is the two-down run defender who sets the edge. Upshaw could be a little bit of both. At 6’2″ 272 lbs, he is not as quick as Clemons or as strong as Bryant, but he may be a nice combination of both. He is a power and effort pass rusher who could get 7-8 sacks in a good season. He is also capable of standing up offensive tackles and making instinctive plays against the run, netting tackles for loss. He could also swing inside to DT in nickel packages, paired with Jason Jones. His versatility is attractive in this defense, and his make-up almost guarantees he will be of some value. No player is “bust-proof,” but Upshaw is pretty darn close.

Upshaw may be a solid bet to succeed in the NFL, but his ceiling is limited. He probably will never be a Pro Bowl player in the Seahawks scheme, let alone an elite defender. The puzzle with Upshaw is figuring out what problem he solves for the defense. He does not project as a good enough pass rusher to replace Clemons, although he would bring different things to the role. Bryant is great as 5-tech, and Alan Branch would be the better replacement if Bryant went down. Upshaw could wind up being a valuable rotational player, but is that what you want with the #12 overall selection? Even if he becomes a starter, who defeats run blocks with regularity and makes the Seahawks a better run defense, it is debatable whether that is the ingredient the team needs to add. Nothing about Upshaw indicates he will be an elite pass rusher. He can help in that regard, but his ceiling there is lower than a player like Ingram. On the flip side, Upshaw’s floor is probably higher than Ingram’s. 

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