With the 16th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the New York Jets will have plenty of impact prospects from whom to choose. Tops on their list should be Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. In Upshaw, the Jets would be getting the kind of linebacker that would be able to immediately step in and become the type of pass rusher the Jets have been lacking since Shaun Ellis and John Abraham left. Whether the Jets keep utilizing the 3-4 defense or switch to a 4-3, which is unlikely, Upshaw should be able to thrive. He could line up at either outside linebacker or as a down lineman at defensive end and become the pass rushing force the Jets so badly lacked last season.
Upshaw, listed at 6-2 and 265-275 pounds, is a little short and a little heavy than a prototypical edge rusher but he is extremely agile for his size. While his size isn’t exactly ideal for an edge rusher, he possesses a motor that doesn’t give up and has a natural ability to get into the backfield. He is also an outstanding tackler, driving through the ball carrier with his strong upper body. His arms are a little short but he has violent hands and can shed blocks well. He pursues the ball carrier with an aggressiveness that can border on the maniacal. He will handle himself in the running game but is not especially good in coverage. However, on passing downs you don’t want someone with his ability to be dropping into coverage, you want him rushing the passer.
He lacks first-step quickness but has the speed to get around the offensive tackle once he gets going. He won’t lead the league in sacks but he should be a consistent double-digit guy in the NFL. If I had to compare Upshaw to someone in the NFL right now it would be Terrell Suggs who is similar in size, 6-3 and 260 pounds, and has a similar motor. Upshaw could fill the role Suggs played for Rex Ryan in Baltimore. Adding Upshaw would relieve some of the pressure from the other linebackers because Upshaw could play as a defensive end and with David Harris, Bart Scott (if he doesn’t get cut or traded), Aaron Maybin (if he returns) and Calvin Pace, coming in on blitzes. If Scott is released or traded then Upshaw should be able to enter into the linebacker shuffle Ryan employs.
If Upshaw is still available the Jets should grab him up and add an element to their defense that has been missing for years, a legitimate pass rusher. Putting pressure on the quarterback will only make corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie that much better and make it extremely hard for opposing offenses to move the ball through the air against them. Courtney Upshaw is the pick the Jets must make.