The Detroit Lions sent shockwaves around the league in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, selecting former Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall, and former Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 18 overall. In the second round, they traded up to select another defensive player: Former Alabama defensive back Brian Branch.
A former four-star recruit out of Sandy Creek High School in Georgia, Branch evolved into one of the most important defenders for Nick Saban and Alabama. He got better every season, culminating in a 90-tackle, 14-tackle for loss, seven-pass breakup 2022 campaign, which earned him multiple All-American honors.
Branch is a versatile chess piece Dan Campbell can have some fun with. He was second on the team in tackles for loss in 2022 (14.0), and allowed just two touchdowns on 64 targets. Detroit has spent this offseason revamping the secondary, as general manager Brad Holmes signed cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency, along with former Philadelphia Eagles star safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Below is a comprehensive draft profile for Branch, including his scouting report, prospect ranking, pro comparison, combine results, college and high school accolades and overall NFL outlook.
NFL Draft grade: A
Best tackling defensive back I've ever scouted. Instinctive playmaker in coverage at intermediate level. Extensive slot defender experience. Just a lesser athlete. Will be fun with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. -- Chris Trapasso
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Brian Branch draft profile
- Age: 21
- Hometown: Fayetteville, Georgia
- Interesting fact: Just four missed tackles over the past three seasons, per PFF
- CBS Sports prospect ranking: No. 17 overall | No. 1 S | 89.57 rating (Long-term starter)
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NFL Combine measurements/results
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 190 lbs | Arms: 30 3/4" | Hands: 9 1/2"
- 40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds
- Broad jump: 10 feet, 5 inches
- Vertical jump: 34.5 inches
- Bench press: 14 reps
Brian Branch is a versatile, intelligent player who has been asked to do a lot for Nick Saban's team. He has fulfilled a leadership role with flying colors. Branch is effective as a spot pass-rusher and playing down hill to fit the run. One has to nitpick to find many flaws in his game, but Branch could add a bit more mass to his frame. He had just a 3.2% missed tackle rate in 2022.
- Versatilility allows him to play safety, nickel and boundary in a pinch
- High football IQ
- Fluid hips to transition across the field
- Effective on blitzes
- Does a good job getting off blocks
- Average in man coverage
- Played a flexible role at Alabama, will a team get good return value in a more refined role?
- Would like to see him add a bit more mass to his frame
College stats, accolades
- 2022: First-team All-American (CBS Sports, ESPN)
- 2022: Second-team All-American (Associated Press)
- 2022: Second-team All-ACC (Associated Press)
- 2022: Only SEC player with 90+ tackles, 2+ interceptions and 2+ sacks
High school: Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Georgia)
Composite Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (0.9709)
- National: 61 | S: 3 | Georgia: 8
High school accolades: 2020 Georgia 5A Ironman of the Year (top two-way player), 2019 "Super 12" squad (Fayette News), 2018 All-County Defensive Player of the Year, All-American Bowl selection, left as school's career interceptions leader