GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 1: Linebacker Courtney Upshaw #41 of the Alabama Crimson Tide chases quarterback Jeff Driskel #16 of the Florida Gators October 1, 2011 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
As draft weekend approaches, more and more rumors and smokescreens fly around. But when a rumor that has a pattern rears its head, we are inclined to write about it. According to Aaron Wilson of The National Football Post, the Bengals are one of seven teams that are enamored with Alabama outside linebacker/defensive end, Courtney Upshaw.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis recently said that he hopes that Upshaw will be available when the Bengals pick at No.21 in the first round. Since he had All-Pro "'tweener" OLB/DE Peter Boulware in Baltimore, Lewis has been seeking that type of player since. He struck out with David Pollack because of a freak injury and thought he had his guy in Dontay Moch last year, though he battled migraines and never played. The team also toyed with Michael Johnson at outside linebacker, but it didn't work out. It's no doubt that Upshaw is in the mix for the Bengals to take in the first, as he also visited with the team about a week and a half ago.
What's interesting is that every team listed employs a 3-4 defense, except for the Titans. Given that Upshaw is one of those "tweener" types of defensive players, his NFL fit seems to be for a team like that. The Bengals rarely use that defensive formation, so it's a bit puzzling as to why they would get a guy that doesn't fit their scheme. It's also interesting to note that fellow AFC North rivals, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have heavy interest in the former national champion.
Upshaw generated nine and a half sacks last season, including one in the BCS National Championship game against the LSU Tigers. He was also credited with 52 total tackles and one interception. While Alabama had one of the best college defenses in NCAA history, it's difficult to predict how these players will fare in the NFL once the unit is disbanded. Opinions vary on Upshaw, as experts believe he'll be selected anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second.