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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    Making the case for Alan Branch
    Falling fast down draft boards, the ex-Michigan defensive tackle serves as a reminder for why scouts should focus on game film
    By Mike Beacom
    April 22, 2007

    The four months that exist between the close of the college football season and the NFL draft can be a miserable place to live for a football player.

    Scrutiny is the vulture that rips apart the flesh of the highly touted prospect, needling and prodding in search of weak spots. And, the bigger the prospect, the bigger the magnifying glass he is under, and the more examining NFL teams need to do in order to justify their sizable investment.

    But these past few months weren’t supposed to be so cruel to Alan Branch, a 6-foot-6, 330-pound defensive tackle out of the University of Michigan. Branch left college a year early because he was told he was a can’t-miss top-10 pick, the kind of player defenses build around for a decade. His football film was testimony to that.

    But what someone like Branch has accomplished on the field often has little to do with why his stock falls this time of year, and no prospect in the 2007 NFL draft class has fallen as far as Branch has. The reasons are trivial, but then again no one has ever said that pro football’s evaluation process was a fair or perfect system.

    Argument One: Branch has stress fractures that have league sources concerned

    Several reports surfaced last week, one from a longtime NFL reporter, about the presence of stress fractures in Branch’s lower legs. Branch’s camp questions those reports, however. His agent, Ben Dogra, asked three NFL teams this week about the report. All three told Dogra they were not concerned, he says.

    “We can’t comment on it because we don’t know anything about it,” says Dogra, who admits that Branch did have shin splints (considered common for larger linemen) while at Michigan, but that they never kept him off the field. “Could he play if both of his legs were fractured? It all just doesn’t make sense to me.”

    Approximately 40 prospects were asked to return to Indianapolis in late March for a second medical examination. Branch was not one of them.

    Argument Two: Branch took too many plays off at Michigan

    Several analysts have suggested that after reviewing game film from last season, it became apparent Branch was not playing at 100 percent on every down. Usually such a tag is reserved for prima-donna skill-position types, but in the case of Branch, it indirectly suggests he is somewhat of a lazy player.

    Not true, he says.

    “It’s funny to me. Being a 335-pound guy who averages 60-65 plays a game … my gas tank isn’t infinite, (but) I go hard every play.”

    Branch was a big reason why Michigan’s defense allowed only 43.4 rushing yards per game, and five scores. Without his presence, the Wolverines would not have experienced that level of success.

    Says Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki, “He rarely left the field in college. … Did Branch take some plays off? Yes. Show me a defensive lineman his size who does not take off plays, especially one that consistently took as many snaps as Branch did.”

    Adds Dogra, “He played 80-85 percent of the time. He’s the one guy (Michigan) didn’t rotate.”

    Argument Three: Branch does not take care of his body, and could be someone who eventually eats himself out of a job

    This label comes from pre-draft workouts, from which at least a few scouts have walked away disappointed. Some suggested Branch looked sluggish during Michigan’s pro day on March 16. According to a report filed by Gil Brandt, a former NFL personnel whiz and an analyst for NFL.com, “Kansas City defensive line coach Tim Krumrie worked Branch hard during the position drills, and the scouts there said Branch did not look like he was in very good shape.”

    It is obvious why this is a concern for someone carrying as much weight as Branch. Remember Gilbert Brown? Wisconsin-based Burger Kings used to advertise the Gilbert Burger, a triple Whopper with all the fixings. Late in his career, on the few occasions when he could find his way below the 400-pound mark, Green Bay would roll Brown out onto the field so that he could eat up a minimum of two blockers (not literally … at least, we don’t think literally) on every down he was able to play.

    Branch, however, is no Gilbert Brown. Not even close. He is only slightly heavier than Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth, and it’s fair to point out that when linemen are paid in dollars instead of in the form of a scholarship, it’s easier to get them to listen to staff nutritionists. Even so, Branch is barely outside of the realm of ideal playing weight for a defensive tackle, if he is at all.

    “He is large,” Dogra says, “and yet he ran as fast, if not faster than most of the defensive tackles that were 20 and 30 pounds lighter than him.”

    Argument Four: Branch does not have enough of a mean streak to play the DT position in the NFL

    After conducting sit-down interviews, several scouts suggested that Branch was too mild-mannered. Defensive tackles are supposed to own the same gritty demeanor that coaches expect out of their interior offensive linemen.

    “I’m not soft-spoken on the field,” Branch admits.

    Dogra makes a comparison. “We represent Brian Dawkins,” he says. “Brian is one of the softest-spoken guys you’ll meet, but when he puts that helmet on …”

    Nawrocki’s best argument to support Branch is something scouts seem to be overlooking. Branch is still, in many ways, developing — as a defensive tackle and as a big-bodied individual. That statement can’t be said of every DT prospect, and certainly not somebody as accomplished as Branch.

    “I think a lot of evaluators underestimate how much he has grown in a short amount of time and how much he is still growing into his body and getting comfortable playing at 330 pounds,” Nawrocki says. “He was a tight end in high school and returned punts. He still has time to finish maturing physically. He's still learning how to use his body. He will become more coordinated and play with more balance in time.”

    What Branch claims should matter most to teams considering him on April 28 is who he is as a football player. He does not run from being called a soft-spoken guy because he says he is one — off the field. And he doesn’t worry about making every tackle so long as he is playing a role in making every play.

    “If I’m doing my job and the linebackers are getting all of the tackles and I don’t get any, that’s fine with me,” Branch says.

    “There are different kinds of defensive tackles,” he adds. “Some make plays, some fill holes. I feel I can do both.

    “I’m the type of player that can hold down the line where a team has more freedom with the linebackers — have them flow or cheat outside or blitz. I’m a defender a team can depend on.”

    Any regrets about leaving early now that he has seen how ugly the next level can be?

    “The only thing I regret about leaving early was that I didn’t get to beat Ohio State,” he says.

    Now that sounds like an answer scouts should make note of.


  2. #2
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    Very nice find Nick. A good read. I can't help but wonder if Branch were to be there when we pick -- if we have already procured the services of Jenkins ... would we go for Branch as well? Nobody knows for sure who the Rams really covet in round one ... This is the most clueless I have ever been regarding who our team might select in rd 1. What adds further to an already cloudy issue is the whole Jenkins scenario ...
    :x

  3. #3
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    I have already gone on, AV’s go on record with what you think will happen thread. I think the Rams would be very happy to see Branch on the board. So much they don’t make the trade for Jenkins.

    It happens every year, rumors, flat out lies, white lies, speculation, what ever you want to call it. Some players just get caught up in it. Warren Sapp was a pothead, so it was said during the weeks leading up to the draft and he slipped.

    Most of us on this board wanted Branch early on, but thought he would be gone before 13. Until we read what information we get on him, or told by the so-called experts he is not going to pan out. Not many if any of the fans watch countless hours of game film on him to take that into consideration, which really is his resume, not the spin that is coming out over the last four weeks or so.

    I will be happy with Branch at 13.

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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    Most of us on this board wanted Branch early on, but thought he would be gone before 13. Until we read what information we get on him, or told by the so-called experts he is not going to pan out. Not many if any of the fans watch countless hours of game film on him to take that into consideration, which really is his resume, not the spin that is coming out over the last four weeks or so.

    I will be happy with Branch at 13.
    -- Rambos
    Indeed, all these myths ... more than speculation, they border on absurdity.

    On the positive side however, I believe that for a good number of players waiting for next week's draft, all this press -- be it positive but especially the negative -- will have made them more aware and prepared, willing, to be better players in the NFL. For the most part, they're still impressionable young men and their professionable coaches-to-be could be a great influence in them (in addition to a teammate mentor or two).

    I too will be very happy finding, taking Branch at 13! :r Thanks for the article Nick.

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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    I will be happy either moving up and taking Okoye.

    or

    Staying out and taking Branch.

    I am big time in the Amobi Okoye camp, but Branch has the rare size that the Rams need.

  6. #6
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    If we get Jenkins before the draft starts, I don't know about picking a DT at #13. We'd have Jenkins, Branch, Kennedy, Glover, and Wroten. Who keeps 5 high priced DT's? What are we paying Glover? And Kennedy is in his last year, do we cut him now? Certainly seems like a crowded room.

    I'm not saying I don't like Branch. He's probably a good pick at #13, but it doesn't make sense to me if we have Jenkins already.

    Sure we may wait until Buffalo picks to make the trade with Carolina, but if we do it before the draft, I don't see Branch or Okoye at #13.

  7. #7
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    I don't know about picking a DT at #13. We'd have Jenkins, Branch, Kennedy, Glover, and Wroten. Who keeps 5 high priced DT's?
    I could see it, as you said Kennedy is in his last year, Glover does not have many years left. Wroten is a 3rd rounder not sure he is high priced. He is still unproven though. As for Jenkins, if we get three solid years, I'm sure we would be happy.
    Last edited by Rambos; -04-22-2007 at 10:20 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    Probably not a problem, but all the misinformation is alarming.

    http://www.aolsportsblog.com/2007/04...slow-him-down/

    Alan Branch Says Stress Fractures Don't Slow Him Down

    Posted Apr 21st 2007 2:18PM by Michael David Smith
    Filed under: NFL Draft, NFL Gossip, NFL Injuries, NFL Rumors
    In an ESPNews interview Saturday afternoon, Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch acknowledged that he has had stress fractures in both legs, but he said he has played with them for years, and he strongly denied that they were serious injuries that should cause him to drop on draft boards.

    "You can barely see a speck on the X-ray," he said. "I don't know why it's coming up now because I have never missed one practice, let alone one game."

    Branch said he disagreed with the assessments of some NFL scouts who thought he showed up to Michigan's pro day out of shape. "I wasn't really out of shape at all," he said. "I was sick for about two weeks before the pro day happened."

    Branch said the NFL player he thinks he's most similar to is Richard Seymour, and that while some scouts think the only position he can play in the NFL is nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, he thinks he can play anywhere on the defensive line. I came away impressed with Branch's demeanor in the interview, and I still think he's worth a Top 10 pick. I especially liked his answer to a question about the NFL's recent crackdowns on players who get into off-field trouble:

    "For fun I watch cartoons. What's a guy who watches cartoons gonna do to get in trouble?"

  9. #9
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    Quote Originally Posted by max View Post
    We'd have Jenkins, Branch, Kennedy, Glover, and Wroten. Who keeps 5 high priced DT's? What are we paying Glover? And Kennedy is in his last year, do we cut him now?
    Wroten was only a third round pick. He's probably not that highly paid. Glover's signed to a 3 year, $12 million dollar contract. If we were to sign Jenkins and draft Branch, Kennedy would probably be the odd man out. We'd probably try to trade him, and if there was no interest, yeah, cut him.

  10. #10
    Drew's Avatar
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    id be delighted to get Branch at 13....i agree with a great deal that was written on the original post of this thread.....seems to me they ranked him so highly up until the last few weeks and now they want to write something new so are now nit-picking....hes gonna be a great NT IMHO

  11. #11
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    "For fun I watch cartoons. What's a guy who watches cartoons gonna do to get in trouble?"
    Thats the best answer I've heard in a long time.

  12. #12
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    Re: PFW: Making the case for Alan Branch

    Quote Originally Posted by smizzhfx View Post
    Thats the best answer I've heard in a long time.

    Yeah, maybe the best response since Sammy Sosa said the only supplements he takes are Flintstone Vitamins.

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