Vertical: 32 inches
40-yard dash: 4.7 seconds
Key stats: He was selected first-team All-ACC and had 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for losses in 2011.
Here’s our next installment of the DRAFT SPOTLIGHT feature, which we’ll run periodically up to the NFL draft April 26-28 in New York.
The Falcons pick with the 55th pick in the second round. They also have picks in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
Some have Branch projected to go much higher, but he could slip because he’s has some limitations. He’s considered a speed rusher with questions about his durability to hold up against the run. He didn’t bench press at the NFL scouting combine or at his Pro Day.
He’s a Q&A with Branch:
Q: Do you think you’re a 4-3 end or a (3-4) linebacker?
A: I’m versatile. I can do it all.
Q: Why is that?
A: I can put my hand in the dirt. I can stand up. It shows up on film. I can drop back in coverage also.
Q: How do you compare to some other guys coming off the edge?
A: I’m a natural pass rusher. My main focus isn’t the other guys in the draft. My main focus is myself.
Q: Why did your sacks (10.5) come in spurts last year?
A: I feel like my sacks came in spurts in probably one game. Other than the Virginia Tech game . . . I averaged a sack a game. . . Like I said, I’m a natural pass rusher, and they’ll come easily to me.
Q: Can you talk about the Va. Tech game?
A: I’m just blessed. I can’t tell you there was one thing I could pinpoint. Mostly it was just I felt like I was better than the left tackle, and I felt like that throughout the whole season. But at the same time, they were down, so they had to pass more, so I had more opportunities.
Q: How did you benefit from being a teammate of DaQuan Bowers and what was it like playing without him (last season)?
A: DaQuan (and I) are like brothers. We always helped each other on and off the field. One thing we always helped each other with was pass rushing. There’s some things that he can’t do and there’s some things that I can’t do that he can do. Just being there for him and him being there for me helped me on the field.
Q: What do want to work on and get better at?
A: Everybody in the NFL is great, so just working on every little thing that I can possibly will help. It’s those little things to me that determine the fact between winning and losing, that battle each and every play. Pad level and hands are definitely one or two things that I can work on, but I’m bound to do that.
Q: Do you prefer the right or left side?
A: Either way, it doesn’t really matter to me.
Q: Any thing you do to read the tackle off the snap?
A: I have a lot of moves in my repertoire.
Q: What’s your favorite?
A: Definitely the dip. The dip is my favorite.
Q: Do you have an NFL player you model yourself after?
A: My favorite player is definitely Terrell Suggs. That’s one player I definitely look up to.
Q: Are you friends with Quinton Coples?
A: We’ve established a relationship since we played each other. He’s a great player.
Q: How do you compare?
A: I don’t compare my game to anybody’s. I can compare myself to myself, but I can’t compare to anybody from the outside.
Q: Where does his leadership come from?
A: I’m a leader on and off the field. I was born (a leader). When I say on the field, I’m not just saying, ‘Oh, I want to lead my teammates and go out there and win.’ But when I’m talking about off the field, I graduated. And when my teammates see me being a great player on the field and they see me also being a great student, that’s leading on and off the field.
Q: When did you graduate?
A: Sociology, minor in education.
Q: What do you want to do with it?
A: My god brother owns about nine group homes in the Richmond area. I want to be his business partner with that.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog