New England Patriots Select Andre Branch in Rant Sports 2012 NFL Mock Draft

By Chris Ransom

With the 27th overall pick in the Rant Sports 2012 NFL Mock Draft the New England Patriots select Andre Branch, defensive end from Clemson. New England obtained the 27th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by making a trade in the 2011 NFL Draft when dealing the 28th overall selection to the New Orleans Saints, who used the pick to select Alabama running back Mark Ingram.

Branch is a 6 foot 5 260 pound defensive end who spent the last two seasons on the Clemson Tigers 4-3 defensive line as their starting right end.

The New England Patriots had 3 major draft needs to address prior to free agency.  The New England Patriots needed to address wide receiver, cornerback, and pass rusher by finding a 4-3 defensive end who could also play 3-4 outside linebacker because Belichick loves defenders with versatility.

New England addressed wide receiver in free agency playing a very active role in providing Tom Brady more playmakers in recent memory.  New England opted to place the franchise tag on Wes Welker.  The Patriots brought in Josh McDaniels product Brandon Lloyd at wide receiver who had previous success with the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Rams under the coaching of McDaniels.  Obtaining McDaniels as an offensive coordinator played a vital role in Lloyd coming to New England.  The Patriots re-signed Deion Branch to play a reduced role as a slot receiver on the inside.

Not only did New England upgrade their starting receiver situation, the Patriots also played an active role in giving Tom Brady depth at wide receiver in the even that injuries occurred.  Chad Ochocinco took a pay cut and will likely serve as a depth receiver.  Anthony Gonzalez and Donte Stallworth were two other free agents that provide Tom Brady with depth at wide receiver.  Daniel Fells was a good 3rd string addition at tight end as well.

I was very satisfied with these moves made by the organization and feel extremely optimistic about New England’s offense next season.  Its going to be scary to imagine what Tom Brady can do with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at tight end while having these playmakers to throw to for depth as well.

New England’s secondary performed really horrible at times when dropping back into coverage on passing plays.  To the Patriots defense, the Patriots were depleted with injuries in the secondary in 2011.  New England added Will Allen and Marquice Cole in free agency.  Neither is a long term starter.  Both players provide depth for the short term.  That means pass rusher is New England’s biggest need by process of elimination.

New England lost their starting right end Andre Carter and their starting left end Mark Anderson to free agency.  Andre Carter suffered a season ending injury against the Denver Broncos last season.  Mark Anderson opted to sign with the Buffalo Bills.

Both Carter and Anderson provided New England with double digit sacks.  Adding Trevor Scott in free agency does not satisfy me either because he’s basically a pass rusher for depth as well as a backup right end.  Brandon Deadick is not that effective either.

The New England Patriots need to find a long term pass rusher at the right end spot.  Blue chip right ends command respect from left tackles and help create turnovers when pass rushing or run stopping.  New England needs to find that blue chip pass rusher with their 27th overall pick.

Andre Branch did not start until his junior redshirt season in 2010.  As a junior Branch started every game for the past two seasons as a right end.  Branch commanded double teams in 2010 that would help DaQuan Bowers lead the nation with 19.5 sacks and 45 tackles for a loss.

Branch also focused on stuffing the run as a right end in 2010.  Clemson has a factory of producing NFL running backs.  Practicing run stuffing concepts in Clemson team practices helped Branch become who he is today as an NFL prospect.

Battling offensive tackles like Chris Hairston (A 2011 4th round pick for the Buffalo Bills as Clemson’s left tackle in 2010.) and Landon Walker (A 2012 late round prospect at right tackle.) played an essential role when preparing Andre Branch for the NFL at the next level.

In 2011, Branch recorded double digit sacks.  I sort of felt like Da Quan Bowers was overrated as a defensive end prospect last season.  One reason I felt this way is because I really believed Andre Branch was underrated.

At the 2012 NFL Combine, Andre Branch dominated the NFL Combine.  Branch ran a 4.7 flat 40 time for a 260 pound defensive end.  Branch ran the 3 cone shuttle in just about under 7.2 seconds which was consdered a top 15 time.  Branch recorded a 120 inch borad jump and a 32.5 inch vertical jump.  One other area Branch dominated was the interception drills.  Branch made one play at the combine where he caught an interception with only one hand.  Branch used his left hand to make the catch.

Branch followed his impressive 2012 Combine workout in Indianapolis with a stellar pro day.  One of the teams that gave Branch a look at his pro day was the New York Jets. Besides the Buffalo Bills, all 3 AFC East teams need pass rushers.  Maybe that is another solid reason why New England should select Branch with the 27th overall pick.

The bottom line is New England needs a game changing pass rusher on defense.  Outside of quarterback and left tackle obtaining a pass rusher is probably a teams biggest goal.  The pass rusher is the most important position on defense when building a defense.  New England lacks a pass rusher at this point.

Many people criticized New England’s decision not to draft a pass rusher in the 2011 NFL Draft before Belichick signed Andre Carter and Mark Anderson in free agency.  The reality is there is a demand for a pass rusher in New England that is simply too great to ignore.  That is the main reason why I see New England opting for a pass rusher with Andre Branch’s dynamic skill set at the end of the day.

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