The 2012 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, with a lot of potential scenarios that could play out. With the New York Jets firmly in the market for a young pass rusher, we'll take a look at two of the best in the crop of 2012 prospects: Melvin Ingram of South Carolina and Courtney Upshaw of Alabama. While it's almost certain that at least one of the two will be off of the board by the time the Jets select, it's worth comparing the two.
The New York Jets are essentially looking for an every-down outside linebacker that can be an impact pass rusher. They can't afford to come away from the 2012 NFL Draft with a player that can only fill a certain role, such as a pure pass rusher like Aaron Maybin or a pure run-stopper like Bryan Thomas. They need to draft an outside linebacker that Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine can just pencil into the depth chart and leave alone. Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw have the physical tools to fill that role, but which is the better pick?
Ingram had 10 sacks for the Gamecocks, Upshaw had 8.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide. Nitpicking over 1.5 sacks is senseless, but it is interesting to note than Ingram recorded sacks in only five of the 13 games he played last season. Upshaw recorded sacks in 8 of his 13 games. The Jets would benefit from having either on their defense.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, it's never just about numbers, or even talent. There are a ton of factors that come into play, injuries being a big one. That can't be ignored in this discussion, as Courtney Upshaw's knee tendonitis has become a source of concern for many teams. The issue flared up during the NFL Combine, robbing Upshaw of some of his explosiveness. The general unpredictability of the issue on a case-to-case basis makes the issue an even bigger question mark.
While that would seem to push Ingram above Upshaw, in the actual approach to the 2012 NFL Draft for the Jets it brings up an interesting discussion. Ingram has jumped Upshaw in almost ever recent projection, meaning the Jets would likely have to move up to draft him. Meanwhile, Upshaw's dropping stock has caused him to be projected to the Jets at No. 16 quite a bit. With Ingram currently being projected at pick 12 or 13 in some recent mock drafts, and using the NFL trade value chart, it would probably cost the Jets a package of their first and third round picks to move up to No. 12 or 13 to take him.
So the question now becomes: Is Melvin Ingram a third round pick better than Courtney Upshaw as a prospect?
To be blunt, no. Not for the Jets, who currently have plenty of needs they could address with that third round pick. If staying at No. 16 means drafting Upshaw, that would be the right decision.
Of course, banking on Upshaw making it to the Jets could turn into a potential nightmare scenario, with both being off the board and the Jets seemingly unable to draft a player worthy of that high of a selection while also addressing a need. If the draft falls the wrong way and the Jets are potentially in a situation where they could miss out on both, it would be justified to give up their third round pick. It's not worth giving up if the choice is Ingram or Upshaw, but if the choice is move up and get one or sit back and get neither, the Jets need to be aggressive.
Final conclusion: On even footing, Ingram is the better prospect because he's injury-free, no question marks. For the price the Jets would likely have to pay for either, Upshaw is the better fit.
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