Following up on some DE/OLBs

February, 27, 2012
Following up on some of the outside linebacker/defensive ends in this year's draft after today's workouts:

1. Clemson's Andre Branch served notice as a player to monitor. His speed checked out (4.70 in the 40), with an strong unofficial 10-yard split at 1.56. The Patriots haven't drafted a Clemson player in Bill Belichick's tenure. Branch, at 6-foot-4, 259 pounds, has a nice size/speed combination that should lead teams like New England back to the tape to watch him closer. Analysts view him as a projected first- or second-round pick.

2. Illinois' Whitney Mercilus did nothing to hurt his stock with a 4.68 in the 40. At 6-foot-3, and 260 pounds, that's a time that teams like the Patriots want to see from an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. He's a first-round projection.

3. Virginia's Cam Johnson and Syracuse's Chandler Jones both had solid vertical jumps of 35 inches. I watched them closely in pass-coverage drills on NFL Network, as they went back to back, and the amateur scout in me thought Jones was a bit more fluid when dropping back. Both were on the slower side compared to their peers -- Johnson at 4.81 in the 40, with Jones at 4.87. They are post round-one options.

4. USC's Nick Perry tested very well, as expected. A 38.5-inch vertical jump reflects his athleticism, as did his 4.64 in the 40. At 6-foot-2, and 271 pounds, Perry said he prefers the 4-3 scheme, and it seems like a stretch to project a conversion to 3-4 outside linebacker at this time. But when considering the high percentages that defenses are in sub packages and a team like the Patriots varies it front, Perry is an interesting prospect to follow from a pure athlete standpoint.

5. Marshall's Vinny Curry ran a 4.98 in the 40. That's a high number for those projecting he might be able to sneak into the late first-round area. He'd currently seem to fall in line with Cam Johnson and Chandler Jones in the outside linebacker projection.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter



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