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    2007 DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES: DEs

(Ed note: Players not necessarily listed in order of grade)

    Alan Branch, Michigan… 6-6, 321, 5.10, JR… Huge junior with decent speed and athleticism for his size. Was actually a pretty good pass-receiving TE coming out of high school; also was a prep basketball star. Branch clogs up the running lanes and demands double teams on most plays to keep him out of the backfield. More than a pure bull rusher with some moves to get around blocks; uses hands well to disengage from blocks and can change direction; closes well on pocket; has decent short-area lateral quickness and agility, but won’t chase down many plays. Not real explosive coming off the line of scrimmage and needs to work at keeping pads low coming out of his stance. Has potential to play just about every position on the defensive line including both DE and NT in a 3-4 scheme, as well as either DE spot in a traditional 4-3 defense. Only issue regarding Branch is a sometimes inconsistent motor as he will take plays off. Unlike a lot of big men, though, Branch is a hard worker who stays in shape; also a durable player who started 23 straight games for the Wolverines. Summary: Freakish physical specimen who has the potential to be a dominating presence upfront inside and could be the first defender off the board this coming April.

    Amobi Okoye, Louisville… 6-2, 302, 4.98, SR… Arguably the most intriguing story of the 2007 draft class. Originally a Nigerian immigrant who will only be 20 years of age when he arrives at an NFL training camp this summer with plenty of upside. Indeed, one of the rising stars of this year’s draft after a breakout year in 2006 when he had 55 tackles including 8 sacks. Prototype two-gap or 3-technique DT who has explosive quickness off the snap and a great motor. Naturally strong player who is one of the top weight lifters in Cardinals’ program. Has excellence agility and balance, as well as natural leverage and can occupy blockers; could use hands and arms better to ward off blockers; also has good football instincts despite the fact he hasn’t been playing all that long. Consistently gets upfield with a quick first step and keeps pads low, but lacks much in the way of sophisticated pass-rush moves. Not super strong at the point of attack, but will spin out of blocks and has good lateral range. However, Okoye had pro scouts doing a double take when he weighed in at only 287 pounds at the Senior Bowl, but added 15 pounds without losing much in the way of quickness by the combine. Summary: Quick, athletic, intense interior defender who has top 10-15 ability, although lack of overall natural bulk could hurt overall grade.

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