Ravens select LB Upshaw with 35th overall pick
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) - The last time the Baltimore Ravens waited until the second round to make their initial pick in the NFL draft, they selected a linebacker from a big-name school with a reputation for harassing opposing quarterbacks.
General manager Ozzie Newsome did it again Friday.
After trading away their first-round pick (29th overall) to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night, Newsome chose Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with the 35th overall selection.
With their original second-round pick, 60th overall, Baltimore selected Iowa State offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele.
The Ravens are counting on the 6-foot-2, 272-pound Upshaw to serve as a bookend to sack-specialist Terrell Suggs, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year. Upshaw had 9 1/2 sacks last year for the NCAA national champions, as well as 11 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles.
Upshaw could fill the void left by the departure of outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, who signed as a free agent with San Diego. Johnson also went to Alabama, as did Newsome, who makes no secret about his fondness for players from his alma mater.
"Courtney is a football player,'' Newsome said. "Obviously he plays at my alma mater, so I had the opportunity to watch him a lot.''
Ravens director of personnel Eric DeCosta was also enthusiastic about Upshaw.
"He plays like a junkyard dog,'' DeCosta said. "He's a physical, violent football player. 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 most important things at this position, and we feel this guy can do that.''
Two years ago, Newsome traded away his first-round selection and took Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle with the 43rd overall pick. Kindle fractured his skull before arriving at his first NFL training camp, missed his entire rookie season and was used sparingly last year.
The Ravens are seeking better results from Upshaw, who had seven sacks and 52 tackles as a junior at Alabama and was even better as a senior.
Suggs led Baltimore with 14 sacks last year. Linebacker Paul Kruger finished second with a career-high 5 1/2 sacks, and the Ravens hope Upshaw can provide additional pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
"Paul is still the lead dog there (opposite Suggs). He's the veteran guy,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It will give us another pass rusher. Courtney will provide great competition. Obviously it makes us more physical on defense. Both these guys, offensively and defensively, give us two very physical players.''
The 6-foot-5, 333-pound Osemele started 43 straight games for the Cyclones, including five at left guard. He could end up being the replacement for guard Ben Grubbs, who signed as a free agent with New Orleans during the offseason.
"Left guard or right tackle. We'll just let those guys compete and see who meshes where,'' Harbaugh said. "It gives us some competition, and I like that.''
Upshaw and Osemele both expected to be plucked earlier in the draft.
"Both guys were a little bit miffed about where they were taken,'' Harbaugh said. "They were happy to come to Baltimore; they were both really excited about that. But I think they both feel like they have something to prove.''
Said Osemele: "I'll just use that as motivation to prove everybody wrong.''