Andre Branch: 7 Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of 2012 NFL Draft Prospect
I have consistently mocked Andre Branch in the first round over the course of the last couple months. The Clemson product shines on tape as a premiere pass-rusher and seems to have the capability to play multiple positions in multiple schemes.
These are two factors that I am pretty sure war rooms around the National Football League are going to take a look at on Thursday as the initial round of the draft develops and moves forward.
Right now I have Branch ranked higher than Quinton Coples, who might actually have more talent. The primary difference here is that Branch is a much more consistent pass-rusher, bringing it on a consistent basis.
This articles is going to focus on seven strengths and weaknesses as they relate to Andrew Branch and his ability to make an impact in the National Football League.
Strength: Pro Ready Pass Rush Moves
Andre Branch possesses a wide variety of different pass-rush moves. He is extremely strong with the bull rush at the point of contact, consistently throwing the blockers back into the offensive backfield.
What separates Branch from lesser pass-rush prospects is the fact that he has a great swim move on the outside. This enables the talented defender to beat the offensive tackle on the outside. It wouldn't matter too much if Branch didn't have the speed to come off the edge, but he does.
This is an indicator that the Clemson product is going to be able to put consistent pressure on the quarterback at the next level.
Weakness: Struggles Against the Run
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Simply due to his makeup and aggressiveness on the football field Andre Branch does struggle against the run. He turns up field and can get run through/at on a consistent basis.
This means that 4-3 defenses are going to have to teach Branch to better read formations and make more educated guesses as to what the play is going to be.
Of course, a lot of pass-rush specialists struggle in this aspect of their game early. However, it seems to be a bit more magnified when it comes to Branch.
This deficiency was also masked by the stout run defense of former Clemson line mate Brandon Thompson.
Strength: Prototypical Size for Defensive End and Linebacker
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Andre Branch stands a 6'4" and 259 pounds, which is ideal for both the defensive end and linebacker position in the National Football League.
Branch will be able to get his hands up in the offensive backfield, leading to batted passes and an inability of the quarterback to find throwing lanes.
When in coverage playing outside linebacker Branch has the ability to use that height to his advantage. He will be able to drop back without having to worry about the quarterback throwing over the top of him. This enables the safeties to play a little further off. It really is a trickle down effect.
Weakness: Some Technique Issues
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Andre Branch does seem to get a bit too high at the point of contact. This enables the blocker to throw him back and maintain the line a lot. He is going to have to hone this technique in order to become a more consistent pass-rusher in the National Football League.
We have seen these issues with struggling defensive ends in the past. Everette Brown and Marcus Spears come to mind first.
Unless Branch fixes these issues, he will struggle early in his NFL career.
Strength: Athleticism and Pure Talent
I fully understand that the scouting combine isn't a great overall gauge of a prospect's ability to succeed at the next level. In fact, it has to be one of the most overrated aspects of the entire pre-draft scouting process.
However, when someone dominates in every possibly way at the combine you do need to take notice. This is exactly what Branch did.
He ran an extremely impressive 4.70 40-yard dash and put up 10' broad jump. These two indicators lead me to believe that he is going to be a consistent threat at the line of scrimmage, getting into the offensive backfield and batting down passes at the line.
Moreover, Branch did great in the skill specific drills at the combine. This pretty much reassures all of us tape nerds that what we saw on our computer screens weren't anomalies.
Weakness: Relatively Slow Initial Step off the Line
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If Andre Branch had a better initial step off the line of scrimmage, he would be considered a top-five pick. This is how good I view the Clemson product to be at the next level.
With that said, he seems to be slow off the snap. This gives the offensive lineman an opportunity to get set in their stances and could lead to consistency issues in the National Football League.
Obviously, this is something that teams might just have to deal with at the next level. He could hone his technique at the point of contact, which might fix this issue to a degree.
Strength: Production, Production and More Production
Andre Branch recorded 10.5 sacks last season with Clemson, four of which came against Virginia Tech. This is an indication that he doesn't struggle against elite competition.
Sacks don't tell the entire story here. Branch put consistent pressure on quarterbacks at Clemson. What might not show up on generic stat lines is the fact that he was almost always in the offensive backfield.
Sometimes you just need to look past the sacks and delve further into what a player does on tape. This is exactly what I did in regards to Branch, and he came up aces in terms of production.