As any television analyst worth his salt will tell you, the NFL has become a league dominated by strong passing offenses.
That puts Courtney Upshaw in an enviable position. Upshaw, a senior linebacker/defensive end from Alabama, is one of the best pass-rushers in this year's draft. He's being projected by some as a top-10 pick following his strong performance at the Senior Bowl, and he could rise higher with good showings at Alabama's Pro Day and the NFL Combine in March.
A two-year starter at Alabama, the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Upshaw registered 9.5 sacks, earned some first-team All-American nods and won the BCS Championship Game defensive MVP in 2011. He'll be regularly providing SI.com with his thoughts in the weeks leading up to the draft.
For me, skipping the Senior Bowl wasn't even an option. Some people were telling me that I was already a projected first-rounder and didn't have anything to gain, but I didn't see it like that. I wanted to get back out on the field; I wanted to play one last game with four of my Alabama teammates; I wanted to further prove myself to NFL scouts.
Thankfully, I think I did pretty well. Though I was an outside linebacker in 'Bama's 3-4, the Redskins' coaching staff -- which was in charge of the South team -- lined me up at defensive end. The position was actually pretty similar to what I played in college, and I felt comfortable lining up there.
I played pretty well in practice and I had some success with my bull rush in one-on-one drills against offensive tackles. I do wish that I would've showcased my other pass-rushing moves more though.
One of the guys who really impressed me in practice was Cordy Glenn. He played offensive guard at Georgia, but the coaches put him at tackle at the Senior Bowl. I went up against him in drills and thought that he did well, especially since he didn't play the position in college.
The actual game went pretty well, too. Lining up with North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples was good -- he's a great player -- and I was able to get a sack and a couple of tackles for loss. And of course it was nice to play in front of some Tide fans in Mobile before getting my pro career started.
I'm in Arizona now, enjoying a little bit of time off before I start training for the Combine. I needed a bit of a break -- I started prepping for the Senior Bowl immediately after we beat LSU in the BCS National Championship and haven't really had any time away from football since last summer.
I'm getting back to work on Wednesday. I'm training at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Phoenix with fellow Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower, Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin and a few other players.
While there, I'll be focusing on linebacker drills, which I didn't really get a chance to work on at the Senior Bowl. I'm going to be working really hard on my feet, trying to improve my drop back into coverage. I'll also be working on my lateral speed. I think I'm pretty quick moving side-to-side, but apparently there are some doubters out there that I need to prove wrong. I'm hoping to do that at the Alabama Pro Day and at the Combine in Indy.
I'm really excited to get this process started. Getting drafted has always been a dream of mine and I'm going to keep working hard to make sure I hear my name in the first round come April.