A 259-pound man running a 4.70 in the 40-yard dash is incredibly rare. If you can do it, you’ll most likely find yourself playing in the NFL, just like Clemson defensive end Andre Branch.
In his senior season Branch garnered All-ACC honors while notching 77 tackles and 10.5 sacks, but he’s hampered by a lack of versatility. While he excelled in situational roles, mostly rushing the passer on third downs, he struggled to contain the edges on run plays.
The Richmond, Virginia native will probably go late in the first round since there are several teams in the latter half of the draft’s opening round that use a 3-4 defense. Branch will probably never be a three-down starter in the NFL, but his ability to get up field as an outside rush linebacker will be of service to teams like the Steelers, Patriots, and Packers.
Weight: 259 Pounds
Born: July 14, 1989
40-yard dash: 4.70
Vertical jump: 32.5 inch
Broad jump: 120 inch
3 Cone Drill: 7.19
20-yard Shuttle: 4.25
Arm length: 34 inches
Hands: 9 inches
2011: 14 GP 85 Tackles 17 Tackles For Loss 10.5 Sacks
2010: 13 GP 54 Tackles 8.5 Tackles For Loss 6 Sacks
2009: 14 GP 37 Tackles 6.5 Tackles For Loss 2 Sacks
2008: 7 GP 10 Tackles 1 Tackle For Loss
What the experts say
Possesses a good initial burst off the edge and has the ability to consistently threaten the corner. Likes to get to the edge and work through contact. Extends his long arms well and did a better job at the end of the year dropping his pad level into contact and incorporating his outside club in order to slip blocks and close around the corner.
Branch turned in an impressive Combine performance. It wasn’t surprising as he looked like a fabulous athlete and speed player at Clemson. Branch is said to have performed well at his pro day too. His best fit in the NFL may be as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Branch, based upon his workout Thursday as both a defensive end and outside linebacker, has proven that he should be a second round pick. Throughout his workout Branch’s outstanding lower body flexibility, agility and long speed showed up. For a player who played primarily defensive end at Clemson, Branch did a good job in his pass drops and displayed good ball skills catching the ball.
Men who weigh over 260 pounds and can burst from a standing start with Branch’s quickness are very rare. That is why teams place a premium on finding them. At times, that premium forces a team to select a pass rusher based on athleticism and potential, not overall productivity or technique.
Branch was the leader of a talented Clemson defense in 2011. He’s one of the better speed rushers in this year’s draft, but doesn’t offer a lot as a power rusher. Because of that, he’ll need to be put in the right scheme that can take advantage of his abilities. He should be able to transition nicely to linebacker because of his range. Branch played the Bandit position at Clemson, which asked him to play with his hand down and in the two-point stance.
I’m kind of lukewarm on him. I got excited during a couple of games watching him, but I’d say more second round for Andre Branch. I’m not going to think late first like some others.
Branch is a raw, flashy, long-armed player with great closing speed, but still has a long ways to go if he wants to excel in the NFL. He arrived at Clemson as a highly-rated high school linebacker and lined up there occasionally in college, but was usually at the team’s “Bandit” or right end spot. There is nothing fancy about Branch’s game and he will probably best fit into an NFL defense that has a very specific role to take advantage of his exceptional straight-line speed, which was validated at the Combine with an unofficial 4.70-second clocking in 40 yards.
What really bothers me about (Clemson DE-OLB Andre) Branch — where was he earlier in his career? You can make excuses for him and say he split time with (Da’Quan) Bowers, but one-year producers have always scared me. They are chasing the money. Most guys change when they get it. … I thought his pad level was very inconsistent on tape. He’s a digester. He doesn’t feel blocking pressure. I can’t believe he has been talked about in the first (round). I don’t know any (other teams) that graded him there.
Keep in mind that last scouting report came from one of Nolan Nawrocki’s infamous sources. Shutdown Corner’s projects Branch to be an Aaron Maybin-like player, who excels in passing downs but is kept of the field otherwise.
Branch’s raw athelicsm is one of the best in the entire draft class, which leads me to believe he’ll find his way into the first round.