Alabama safety Brian Branch was taken by the Detroit Lions with the No. 45 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The team traded up with the Green Bay Packers to make the selection. Branch was the top safety on the board heading into this year’s draft and adds an interesting dynamic to the Lions secondary.
Alabama has become a juggernaut of soon-to-be NFL talent, and as is the case in many years, the Crimson Tide could very well dominate the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft with a handful of prospects hearing their names called. Safety Brian Branch is widely considered to be the best at his position in this year’s class as he looks to bring his acumen and high defensive IQ to one of 32 NFL teams.
After being ranked as a top-five safety prospect out of Sandy Creek High School in Georgia, Branch starred for the Crimson Tide in three seasons at Tuscaloosa. The junior recorded 172 total tackles, 23 pass breakups, four sacks, and three interceptions, with his 2022 season marking an accolade-filled year for the three-year player. He broke out as a second-team Associated Press All-American last year, starting all 13 games and finishing with 14 tackles for loss with three sacks and two interceptions.
Brian Branch: Scouting Report
At 6’0” and 190 lbs with a 30 3/4” wingspan, Branch can largely operate as a plug-and-play option in an NFL defense from day one. He’s fast and fluid for his size and scouts across the board highly tout his football intelligence, which should serve him well when making the leap into an NFL defensive system.
As a ballhawk that is capable of reading a receiver’s eyes when tracking downfield, Branch is among the handful of players that are regarded as safe picks in this year’s class.
Aside from tightening up his tackling when coming in too high and occasionally being outflanked by a run defender when coming out of the slot, there aren’t too many glary weaknesses jumping out when assessing Branch’s tape. NFL.com has Minkah Fitzpatrick as an apt comparison, with a prospect grade of 6.49 highlighting his potential of becoming a good starter within two years.
Mock Draft landing spots
Branch is expected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick. ESPN’s Matt Miller and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler both see him ending up with the Philadelphia Eagles at pick No. 30. CBS’ Ryan Palmer has him going to Green Bay as high as pick No. 15, and NFL.com’s Chad Reuter sees the Patriots taking him in the second at pick No. 36.