In its final pre-NFL Scouting Combine Mock Draft, the DRAFTSIM from Draft Tek has selected Clemson defensive end Andre Branch for the New York Giants with the 32nd overall selection.
Yes, a defensive end. So, let's use today's 2012 NFL Draft Prospect Profile to discuss Branch. First, here is what Draft Tek's Giants analyst, Bill Bliss, said of the simulation's selection of Branch.
"What? A Defensive end? Yes, it sounds crazy, but so did the drafting of Kiwi and JPP... and look how that turned out! Honestly, it does seem a bit excessive to have so many DEs, but if Osi is traded, this pick makes a lot of sense. Clemson's Andre Branch is a GREAT value at the end of the 1st, and Jerry Reese will not reach in early rounds to fill needs. Branch has the long arms that the Giants covet, keeps contain well, and shows outstanding speed and hustle. His natural athleticism and experience playing occasional OLB at Clemson really makes him versatile. Knowing that Fewell runs a creative defense, and the Giants need at LB, this pick starts to make even more sense. The knocks on Branch's game are lack of power, limited pass rush moves, and deficiencies in technique ... all of which can be improved in the weight room and by learning from Tuck and JPP. Branch led the ACC with 10.5 sacks last year."
SB Nation's Mocking The Draft ranks Branch 24th on its Top 100 Prospects list, and No. 3 among defensive ends.
Wes Bunting of the National Football Post is not as high on Branch, ranking him 85th on his Big Board. In his scouting report on Branch, Bunting says:
"Has a lot of untapped talent. And is the kind of athlete you would expect to mature into a solid three-down player in the NFL as a 43 DE."
CBS Sports ranks Branch No. 35 on its Big Board.
Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline ranks Branch 42nd, and says "Branch is the next in a long line of athletic pass-rushers who have come from the Clemson program. He forcefully makes plays behind the line of scrimmage and easily chases the action in pursuit. Like many of his predecessors from the school, many question his every-down intensity."
So, a defensive end? Let's be honest that knowing the Giants history and there belief in pass rush above all else that taking a defensive end early in the draft -- regardless of other perceived needs -- is never out of the realm of possibility. Also, face the reality that the Giants may trade or release Osi Umenyiora, that Justin Tuck has been a physical wreck two of the last three years and that Mathias Kiwanuka is entering the final year of his contract and the possibility of re-stocking the Giants most important defensive weapon would make some sense.
As for Branch specifically, the phrases that make me think Branch might be the kind of player who would get the attention of GM Jerry Reese and College Scouting Director Marc Ross are "natural athleticism," "untapped talent," and "long arms that the Giants covet."
Andre Branch Profile
Weight: 260 pounds
40 time: 4.77 (pre-Combine)
2011 Stats: 10.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 85 total tackles