By Jeff Zrebiec
10:01 PM EDT, April 27, 2012
Update 9:52 p.m.: Here are a few quotes from The Castle on the Ravens' first two draft picks tonight. Here are a few highlights from tonight's news conference with Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh.
Newsome's overall thoughts: "Coming into today, you talk about the two guys that we got, they both were seniors so they bring a level of maturity to the locker room already. They are guys who made their way through two pretty good programs. When you talk about Courtney, this still is a game that we call football and Courtney is a football player. Obviously, he played at the alma mater of myself and I’ve had the opportunity to watch him myself. K.O. is an offensive lineman that has the potential to play either guard ot tackle for us. He gives us some flexibility there."
Newsome on his surprise Upshaw was available: "Yes, in a sense. I’m sure if you had asked us back in October or November, would Courtney make it to the third pick in the second round, everybody would have probably said, ‘probably not.’ He was a guy that we talked about at 29, also. "
DeCosta on Upshaw setting the edge: "That’s his speciality. That’s one of the things that was so attractive about him. He plays like a junkyard dog. He has a strong punch. He is a physical, dominant football player. We’re excited about that. That’s not an easy position to play. A lot of guys can’t do that. A lot of guys can rush the passer, a lot of guys can drop and play in space, but setting the edge is really one of the one most important things at that position and we feel this guy can do that."
Harbaugh on Upshaw: "Obviously it bolsters our linebacker situation. It gives us one more player in that mix. It allows us a to move some guys around a little bit. I thinkPaul [Kruger] is still the lead dog there. He’s is the veteran guy. It obviously gives us tremendous depth. He adds one more guy into the mix on special teams. It obviously makes us more physical on defense. That’s the kind of player that he is. Both of these guys – offensively and defensively – give us two really physical players."
Harbaugh on Osemele competing at guard: "Yes, I think that would be a possibility. Left guard or right tackle. Just let those guys compete and see also who meshes better where with Jah being in the mix, also Michael Oher being in the mix, Bryant McKinnie being in the mix. It gives us some competition and we like that. "
Update 9:05 p.m.: It took a little longer than some expected, but the Ravens used their second pick of the second round to address their offensive line.
The Ravens selected Iowa State guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele with the 60th pick overall.
Osemele, who is 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, started 43 games the past four seasons for Iowa State.
He's expected to compete for Jah Reid for the starting left guard spot after Ben Grubbs left via free agency.
Update 7:30 p.m.: Finding an outside linebacker wasn’t necessarily viewed as the Ravens’ top priority heading into this week’s draft, but when they got set to make the 35th overall selection tonight, they couldn’t resist adding another potential impact defensive player and a pass-rushing complement to Terrell Suggs.
Temporarily ignoring their needs on the offensive line and an opportunity to draft another explosive receiver, the Ravens selected linebacker Courtney Upshaw, one of the defensive standouts on an Alabama team that won the national championship last season.
Upshaw is the first of at least three picks that the Ravens will make tonight. They’ll be on the clock again at pick No. 60 of the second round, and then they also have a third-round pick at No. 91 overall.
The St. Louis Ramsstarted the round by picking wide receiver Brian Quick of Appalachian State. The Indianapolis Colts then selected tight end Coby Fleener from Stanford, reuniting him with his college quarterback, Andrew Luck.
That left the Ravens to choose from Upshaw, Wisconsin center Peter Konz and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill among others.
Upshaw, who is 6-feet-2 and 272 pounds, played in 50 games over his four-year Alabama career, registering 140 career tackles and 16 1/2 sacks. He had his best season this past year, starting 12 of 13 games and registering 51 tackles, including 17 for losses, 8 1/2 sacks and one interception.
Upshaw played both defensive end and outside linebacker in Nick Saban’s pro-style defense at Alabama, and there is some question where he profiles best in the NFL. However, he’ll fill a definitive need for the Ravens, who were not only looking to add another passrusher, but find a potential replacement for outside linebacker Jarret Johnson.
Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan also are in line to fill some of the void left by Johnson’s departure to the San Diego Chargers early in free agency.
The Ravens were long speculated as a suitor for one of Upshaw’s college teammates: inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, but he went off the board at pick 25 to the New England Patriots who traded into a position where they could select him. However, Upshaw being still on the board at pick 35 was a nice surprise to the Ravens, whose General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a fondness and familiarity for Alabama players that dates back to his days as a star tight end for the Crimson Tide.
Upshaw was the fifth Alabama player to be drafted , following running back Trent Richardson (3rd to the Cleveland Browns), safety Mark Barron (7th to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (17th to the Cincinnati Bengals) and Hightower.
The Ravens have drafted six Crimson Tide players in team history, the second most from any school. Oklahoma (seven) is first.
When the draft process started, Upshaw was never connected to the Ravens because nobody figured that he’d drop to the late first round, nevermind early second round. However, his status took a significant hit after an uneven performance at the Senior Bowl and an indifferent one at the NFL Scouting Combine. Upshaw, 22, also did not work out at his Pro Day because of knee tendinitis.
He did little to stand out during Senior Bowl drills and then at the combine, he tested poorly, didn’t look in top shape and reportedly turned off some coaches by jogging in between drills. He also declined to run at the event.
The showing added to some potential character and maturity concerns for Upshaw, who was arrested in August 2009 along with his girlfriend and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and third-degree harassment.
The Ravens, however, did their homework on Upshaw and decided the player’s upside far exceeded the potential risks.
Upshaw is extremely strong and powerfully built, and uses both speed and power to get to the quarterback. He has refined pass-rushing moves and the strength and quickness to get off blocks and chase down running backs from behind.
The selection of Upshaw marks the first time the Ravens have drafted a linebacker in the first round since they took Suggs out of Arizona State with the 10th overall selection in 2003.
While the addition of Upshaw does answer one significant question, the Ravens still have a healthy list of needs that they hope to address over the final two days of the draft.
They figure to add at least one offensive lineman in the draft, including a potential replacement for Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs who signed with the New Orleans Saints a couple of days into free agency. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie is entering the final season of his contract and center Matt Birk contemplated retirement this past offseason and is no lock to return for more than one year.
The Ravens are still looking to increase their positional depth at running back, wide receiver, defensive line and safety. They also are hoping to come out of the draft with a return specialist.
Rounds four through seven of the draft will take place on Saturday, starting at noon.
The Ravens have eight more picks remaining with at least one in every round and two in the fourth and fifth rounds.
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