The New England Patriots are in the market for a 4-3 right end pass rusher in April’s 2012 NFL Draft. My favorite pass rusher outside of North Carolina’s Quinton Coples is Clemson right end Andre Branch.
Branch can be a 4-3 right end or a 3-4 right outside linebacker as a hybrid pass rusher. Branch has started as Clemson’s right end for the past two seasons.
As a junior Branch anchored a defensive line at right end that also featured left end DaQuan Bowers, Brandon Thompson a 2012 2nd round prospect at defensive tackle, and Jarvis Jenkins a 2011 2nd round pick. Andre Branch showed the skill set to be a NFL starter at right end during his past two seasons at Clemson.
Branch got constantly double teamed at Clemson as a junior when clashing against left tackles and left guards on the offensive line. The double teams that Branch commanded in 2010 helped teammate DaQuan Bowers record a mind boggling 45 tackles for a loss and 19.5 sacks. That’s why Branch’s presence at right end is so underrated.
Look at who Branch went up against the past two seasons if your still not convinced. The stats do not tell you everything you need to know about Clemson’s Andre Branch. Sometimes you can find out about a player by watching the tape.
Branch recorded 3 sacks in his first two games in 2010. Branch dominated the run blocking battles while struggling as a pass blocker against Auburn left tackle Lee Ziemba who was a 2011 NFL Draft prospect
In 2010, ACC opponents like Florida State and Miami FL had NFL prospects at left tackle and left guard that they could use to completely disable Andre Branch’s pass rushing ability by double teaming Branch. Those double teams opened up space for DaQuan Bowers in 2010.
Anthony Costanzo of Boston College managed keep Andre Branch in check. That’s one reason why Costanzo went to the Colts in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Costanzo showcased great game tape against the Clemson Tigers right end by owning Branch in the one on one battles in the trenches.
Andre Branch only recorded 6 sacks in 2010. Branch could have gone pro after Bowers left. Branch decided to return to school instead. Andre Branch would be named team captain in 2011. The decision paid off as Clemson would go on to win the 2011 ACC Championship.
Branch managed to record 10.5 sacks in 2011 as a senior right end. Branch managed to win one on one battles against 2012 draft prospects like Auburn offensive Brandon Mosley and Virginia Tech offensive tackle Blake DeChristopher by recording 5 of his 10 sacks against those two NFL prospects.
The signature moment of Branch’s senior campaign was his first game against Virginia Tech before their rematch in the ACC Championship game where he owned DeChristopher by recording 4 sacks for Clemson in a 23 to 3 win over Virginia Tech.
Branch weighs in at 6 foot 5 260 pounds. Branch can play the 4-3 or the 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker with his versatility.
Last year I told people that DaQuan Bowers was one of my most overrated prospects in the entire draft. One of the reasons why I believed this was because Branch provided such a disruptive presence commanding double teams from opponents in 2010 while other NFL prospects on Clemson’s defensive line stepped up contributing in a major way. The fact that Andre Branch is ranked so low on most teams boards sort of surprises me.
New England needs an all around complete defensive end who can command respect from left tackles. That is exactly what Andre Branch could provide for the New England Patriots if they select him 27th overall.