Courtney Upshaw’s Big-Game Ability Would Help Patriots’ Pass Rush If Concerns Cause Draft-Day Slide


Courtney Upshaw's Big-Game Ability Would Help Patriots' Pass Rush If Concerns Cause Draft-Day SlideThe Patriots need to address the edge of their defensive front in the draft, and they might have an opportunity to do just that by selecting one of the country's premier big-game players.

Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw had three sacks in the team's last two bowl games, and he was dominant in the Crimson Tide's national championship victory against LSU. Yet, some other issues could cause him to tumble to the Patriots in the bottom of the first round.

Upshaw is the focus of the 14th installment of a 26-day series that will highlight draft prospects who could land with the Patriots at the end of April. Maybe the prospect fits perfectly in the range of their 27th and 31st picks. Maybe he's intriguing enough for them to make a rare move up the board. Or maybe it's a player who could be available in the mid-30s, causing the Patriots to, gasp, trade down. 

Key Stats

The 6-foot-2, 272-pounder had 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and one interception as a senior in 2011.

Why the Patriots Would Want Him

The defensive MVP of the national championship is one of the best pass rushers in the draft class, and he's been considered a top-tier prospect since high school. And in regard to the Patriots, as with any player from Alabama, Upshaw gets bonus points for excelling in Nick Saban's defense. Upshaw can play on the edge in either front, and he has shown a knack for attacking the ball, whether it's in the hands of the quarterback or running back.

Why the Patriots Might Stay Away

Upshaw has concerned some scouts in the interview process, according to Pro Football Weekly, because of some apparent "distractions" in his life. There are also concerns about his knee tendinitis, and Upshaw's weight has been an issue in the pre-draft process. He ballooned from 273 at the combine to 279 at his pro day, despite saying he wanted to get down to 265.

Potential Impact in 2012

The Patriots have to replace Mark Anderson, so Upshaw would have an immediate opportunity to start. However, if they play a 3-4, Upshaw might face a steeper learning curve because he wasn't asked to drop into coverage much at Alabama. At the very least, Upshaw would have a role as a situational pass rusher.

Likelihood Upshaw Is Available at No. 27

Earlier in the pre-draft process, it looked like there was no chance Upshaw would fall to the Patriots, let alone out of the top 20. But with the aforementioned concerns, nothing is a certainty anymore.

Each day in April, will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.

Friday: USC defensive end Nick Perry

Sunday: Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Facebook/Courtney Upshaw

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