26

April

Green Bay Packers Draft Matchup: DE/OLB Andre Branch vs. G Kevin Zeitler

NFL Draft Prospect Profile Andre Branch, DE/OLB Clemson

Andre Branch, DE/OLB Clemson

This decision comes down to need for the Packers. Do they take Andre Branch and fill an immediate need on the defensive front? Or do they select Kevin Zeitler and fill a likely future need at center or guard?

Usually I don’t pay much attention to the NFL draft, especially all the pre-draft hoopla, but this year the draft has sucked me in. I’ve watched video, studied scouting reports, and tried to follow the opinions of analysts I respect.

One of my favorite players to watch and learn more about has been Zeitler. He’s quick out of the gate when he pulls and a wrecking ball when he heads upfield looking for defenders to take out and pave the way for Wisconsin’s running backs.

Branch’s pass-rushing game is built mostly around speed, but what makes him even more attractive to the Packers is his versatility. He lined up in both a two- and three-point stance at Clemson and could move around the Packers defense if needed. He’s definitely a Dom Capers type of player.

If both players are available when the Packers pick late in the first round, I’d go with Branch, but it’d be a tough call. Zeitler looks like he has the skills to play right away and be an effective offensive lineman for a long time. Branch looks a little more raw.

I went with Branch because his ceiling is a little higher and the Packers have an immediate need up front. It’s always nice when you get a player you’re fairly confident will be solid for at least the next five years (Zeitler). But if you have a chance to hit a home run with a first-round pick, you swing for the fences. Branch’s ceiling is higher, his position is more important, and he fills an immediate need.

In other words, Branch has more potential to be a home run.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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4

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: DE/OLB Andre Branch, Clemson

NFL Draft Prospect Profile Andre Branch, DE/OLB Clemson

Andre Branch, DE/OLB Clemson

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Andre Branch

Player information:

Andre Branch, Clemson
6’4″, 259 lbs
2-sport star in HS as a football tight end/outside linebacker and a basketball power forward.

NFL Combine:

4.70 40-yard dash
4.25 20-yard shuttle
7.19 3-cone drill
10.0′ long jump
32.5″ vertical jump
19 bench press reps
34″ arms
9″ hands

News & Notes:

Branch led the Tigers in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (17) in 2011. Played primarily right DE at Clemson, but has the athleticism and measurables to handle the conversion to 3-4OLB.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post): At 6-4, 259, Branch has the athleticism to stand up. He can bend, turn and burst to get to the passer. He is similar to Whitney Mercilus, except not quite as dynamic. However, instincts could hold him back at OLB, according to one front office man.

Frank Cooney (CBS Sports): 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… Possesses a legitimate blend of explosive speed and power which could result in much improved play with greater technique. Can beat lethargic offensive tackles off the snap with his burst. Good upper body power to stack and shed, as well. Some untapped potential in this area.

NFL Combine: Branch is a tall, physical and athletic end who could move to outside linebacker for a team that runs the 3-4 defense. He should be able to regularly beat NFL linemen on the rush and disrupt the passer, whether he’s standing up or has his hand on the ground. Because of his versatility and pass-rushing ability, he should come off the board late in the second round.
Video:

Watch Andre Branch’s NFL Combine Workout

Video Analysis:

  • Ideal size/speed combination.
  • Active in pursuit, can chase ball carriers down.
  • Will have to get stronger and play with better pad level, especially against the run.
  • Needs to use hands better to keep blockers from getting into his body.
  • Could develop into an explosive edge rusher as a pro.
  • Should have the ability to drop into coverage with good success.
8

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Clemson DT Brandon Thompson

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Player Information:

Brandon Thompson, DT Clemson
6’ 2 310 lbs.

Hometown: Thomasville, GA

Major: Management

NFL Combine

Bench Press:  35 reps (225 lb)
Vertical Leap: 31.0 inches
Broad Jump:  100 inches
Shuttle: 4.71
Three Cone:   7.97

News and Notes:

Before he joined the Clemson Tigers, Thomspon was ranked the 39th highest prospect in the nation by ESPN.com and was the number three defensive tackle.  He was supposed to redshirt his first year, but had the redshirt removed after injuries to Clemson’s defensive line forced him into action.   As a freshman, Thompson  had 25 tackles which fourth highest amongst freshmen.  He is nicknamed “Yams” because of his big thighs that helped him anchor the line for the Tigers.   Thompson’s senior year began with the loss of Da’Quan Bowers to the NFL.  His low tackle numbers didn’t often tell the big picture as his ability to disrupt the offensive line opened opportunities for his teammates.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (NationalFootballPost.com): “A guy who should be able to come in and be a lineman who can win inside vs. the run game. Looks a bit limited as a pass rusher, but will be able to push the pocket and threaten gaps off the ball. A starting caliber 43 nose inside.”

NFL.com (Combine) “  He is consistent in his play and uses his feet to make plays happen against the run. He comes off the ball quickly and is able to fill gaps well at his size. He also make plays on the ball carrier. He is a very strong player who knows how to use his hands and disrupt plays in the backfield. Thompson tends to be negated by double teams inside. His substandard technique can limit him at times and contributes to his inability to get past those doubles. Though he is stellar against the run, he is limited against the pass, only occasionally making things happen as a rusher  “