Tracking Clemson Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft
Clemson welcomed themselves back to the main stage last year, as an early-season run, riddled with huge wins, boosted them towards the top of the rankings and got themselves some national recognition.
Some of the reasons that Clemson had such a successful 2011, which included an ACC Conference Championship, was because of some of the young men who are eligible in this year's NFL draft.
When looking at the projections for this year's draft, the Clemson Tigers family is hoping to see players like Andre Branch, Dwayne Allen, Brandon Thompson, Coty Sensabaugh, Antoine McClain and Rennie Moore get picked up by NFL teams.
As players sit at home awaiting that call, they will gather with family and friends and hope that they are not waiting things out all the way through to Saturday afternoon.
Stay tuned to this slideshow as the draft progresses. As soon as a Clemson Tiger comes off the board, we will update it here live, letting you know where and when they went in this year's NFL draft.
Andre Branch, DE, Drafted by Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 38 Overall
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Andre Branch played on the same defensive line as two 2011 second-round picks (Jarvis Jenkins and Da'Quan Bowers) and another expected high pick in this year's draft (Brandon Thompson). He has the best first step and speed-edge rush of the group, as Virginia Tech found out when he saddled them with four sacks during their contest with Clemson last year. Branch is athletic enough to convert to 3-4 OLB in the pros, but he has to round out his game before that can happen.
In a draft without an elite pass rusher, Branch may be able to stake a claim to being the best one available, which should at least get him on the field in obvious passing situations. He might be slow to enter the starting lineup because of the need to work on anchoring in run defense and learning to play more as an outside linebacker. He'll never be an elite two-way player, but Branch could be among the league's sack leaders with a good pass-rush partner on the other side of the defense.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Drafter by Indianapolis Colts, No. 64
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At 6'3", 255 pounds, Dwayne Allen isn't the biggest tight end. However, his skill set allows him to consistently be mentioned as one of the top TEs in the 2012 NFL draft.
With 598 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2011, Allen has already produced at a high level. Allen's 12-yard average per catch is an excellent number for a tight end.
In the NFL, Allen projects as a solid starter. As his 4.89 40-yard dash suggests, however, Allen lacks elite upside. He simply isn't a dynamic vertical threat.
Still, Allen is a solid in-line blocker with good catching ability. He excels at working the underneath, and he will haul in plenty of catches at the next level.
Because he is already a good route-runner, Allen should contribute from day one. He still does need to refine some aspects of his game, though, so he probably won't start immediately.
Allen is an interesting pick by the Colts. They nabbed Fleener with the 2nd pick of the 2nd round, so they're certainly trying to find Luck some weapons. But Allen isn't a very good blocker. Is there room on the field for two pass-catching TEs?
Brandon Thompson, DT, Drafted by Cincinnati Bengals, No. 93 Overall
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In terms of strength, Brandon Thompson is one of the most impressive prospects this year's draft has to offer. A weight-room beast at Clemson, he has a 450-pound bench press and 615-pound squat lift to back it up.
Thompson wasn't just a weight-room All-Star, though—he became a starter as a freshman and fought through constant double teams to record 208 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 47 quarterback hurries in his Clemson career.
Even though Thompson was only selected as a Second Team All-ACC in his senior season, the prevailing thought is that most teams ran away from him and didn't allow him the chance to display his varied talents.
Brandon Thompson is a true testament to how the deep the draft is at defensive tackle, as he may find himself starting in theNFL just as quickly as his first-round counterparts. The concern is that Thompson may have reached his peak talent-wise—which is NFL caliber for sure—but not as high a ceiling as the others in the draft.
Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Drafted by Tennessee Titans, No. 115 Overall
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Coty Sensabaugh does not possess the hype or ability of felow cornerbacks Morris Claiborne or Dre Kirkpatrick, but he is still an intriguing prospect.
The 23-year-old recorded 43 tackles, two pass deflections and one interception in 14 starts with Clemson last season. He helped carry the Tigers to an ACC title and an Orange Bowl appearance in 2011.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING
CBS Sports provided the following analysis:
"As an NFL Draft prospect, Sensabaugh offers quality man coverage skills, speed, and ST contribution. Hips are smooth enough for corner duty. A bit light for safety consideration, Sensabaugh makes a good effort to tackle, but is not a strong or robust tackler. Best fit in the NFL would be with a team that uses a lot of man coverage, initially as a back-up CB and gunner. Must get stronger for starter consideration."
ROOKIE IMPACT AND POTENTIAL
Sensabaugh is still an inexperienced prospect who needs to bulk up to make an impact at the next level.
His rookie year may be very quiet, but if he can adjust accordingly to NFL-caliber wide receivers, then he could claim a starting job within a few years.