TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22: Dont'a Hightower #30 and Courtney Upshaw #41 of the Alabama Crimson Tide react after a defensive stop against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
We've pointed out several times before that a dark horse pick for the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round could actually be a linebacker, despite the fact Rey Maualuga, Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson are signed through 2012. Maybe a linebacker/defensive end hybrid that could be one of the top pass rushing prospects? That sounds pretty Lewisonian, right? According to Tony Pauline with Sports Illustrated and DraftInsider.Net, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is hoping that Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is still available when Cincinnati's on the clock with their second first-round pick.
Upshaw rates exceptional to above average on most attributes from Scout, Inc., who grades him as the third-best defensive end prospect, especially his run defense:
Is short and occasionally gets engulfed by bigger blockers if reached. Dominates TEs at point of attack and does better than average job versus OT's for hybrid DE/OLB type. Displays good hand use, which allows him to keep separation from OT's for the most part. Plays with leverage. Is disciplined and almost always keeps outside contain. Also does a nice job of utilizing proper shoulder to take on blocks. Has quick, powerful hands to disengage in a hurry. Adequate tackling skills for position. Will leave feet and fall off some ball carries. But shows good closing burst for size and can make plays from behind. Is a heavy hitter. Can jar the ball loose (six FFs last two seasons). Plays hard and will make some effort plays in run pursuit.
Their rating on Upshaw as a pass rusher is less, but still promises effectiveness:
Needs to be more consistent with snap awareness, Flashes good take-off speed to beat the OT to the point, but is not consistent enough in this area and will never have elite first-step quickness. Appears more natural and quicker off ball when standing up. Does not show sudden change-of-direction skills as a pass rusher. Usually wins with combination of power, leverage, hands and motor. Attacks the OT with good leverage and keeps him off balance with array of power moves. Shows quick and violent hands. Displays average torso flexibility. Shows above average closing burst when he gets a beat on the QB and will explode through contact.