In each of the past five drafts, Clemson has had at least one defensive lineman selected, including four players in the first two rounds, and the streak won't end this year, despite pretty uneven results so far by the former Tigers' stars.
End Andre Branch and tackle Brandon Thompson both are highly regarded prospects, each of whom scored some points at the combine, and they can be perceived as players on the rise.
Part of what makes both attractive is their shared versatility, a quality NFL scouts clearly have not overlooked.
"The way the game is played now, with people jumping in and out of (multiple) fronts, it's a big plus for them," said one NFC area scout whose territory includes the ACC.
Branch, who had 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2011, is a hybrid-type edge defender, who might be able to play end in a 4-3 or some 3-4 outside rush linebacker. Timed at 4.70, Branch looks to have great upfield burst, and his 77 tackles last season indicate he is also active versus the run.
He could go off the board in the first round.
Maybe more surprising is Thompson, a player who some teams told The Sports Xchange might still squeeze into the very bottom of the first round.
The second round is more realistic, but Thompson seems to be growing on people. The key for the 314-pound Thompson, who had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl but did not run in Indianapolis, is that a few clubs, like New England, feel he can play the pure "five-technique" end spot in a 3-4, and perhaps slide inside to tackle to log some 4-3 snaps.
Thompson had just 4.5 sacks in his college career, but scouts contend there is some pass-rush potential there, and that Thompson isn't just a nose tackle-type player.--By Len Pasquarelli