Is it me or does it seem like Michigan DT Alan Branch is gradually dropping out of the upper echelon of the NFL draft's first round? When I attended the Combine in February, there seemed to be six elite talents that would somehow comprise the first six picks of the draft. More often than not, however, I'm seeing draft pundits describe this as a five-deep draft, with the sixth player just outside that group being DE Gaines Adams. I'm certainly not on the front lines of the personnel and scouting community, but this seems odd to me given what Branch brings to the table.
The 6-6, 324-pound interior lineman is a physical specimen with athleticism and the natural ability to dominate at the point of attack. Teams have grown fond of saying that defenses are built from the inside or middle out and that everything begins with stopping the run. Then why, I ask, are losing teams at the top of the draft not seriously considering a kid who fits that bill? His versatility — he can play anywhere on a 3-4 line or the run-struffing tackle spot in a 4-3 — only adds to his value. Is Adams explosive? Sure, but in my mind, speed rushers can be found later in the draft while Branch's skill set at the DT spot is rare. Arizona, Washington, Minnesota, Atlanta, Miami...take note.