The Good: Brian Branch usually finds himself in the right place at the right time on the football field, and in his case that’s not happenstance. Like Xavier McKinney was just a few years ago at Alabama, Branch is a smart and anticipatory player from wherever he lines up on defense – of which there are multiple spots. Branch has awesome contact balance for a dude who’s 190lbs and he’s a sure tackler for his size, so he can survive near the line of scrimmage surrounded by some blockers who are almost twice his weight. Branch doesn’t need much instruction to play in zone coverage, and in man coverage he’s got enough change of direction ability to hold his own against some pass catchers.
The Bad: Ok, it’s time to call this one like it is. Brian Branch isn’t a bad or slightly below average athlete for a Day 1 or Day 2 prospect. He’s a flat-out bad athlete for a Day 1 or Day 2 prospect. This isn’t a case of Branch’s traits not translating to workout gear either; he’s visibly on the slower side for a soon-to-be NFL safety. As a cover man, Branch isn’t quick enough to shut down smaller targets – he’s grabby to account for it – and he also can get bodied by bigger targets. His ball skills are subpar, and he’s generally a more reactive than instinctive player. Branch rarely ever misses a tackle, but he does tackle up high and lets RBs fall forward, and he doesn’t get in the way of runs or provide the last line of defense well enough for a pro-caliber safety yet.
The Bottom Line: I know that’s harsh – and there’s a lot to like about Branch’s game – but I haven’t seen much pushback against him as a Round 1 prospect when I think there’s a good chance he doesn’t actually go in Round 1, so I want to share my full evaluation. I absolutely like Brian Branch better as a two-high safety than a slot CB, which is where Alabama played him a ton. Candidly, I don’t think he has a shot there in the NFL and I hope his eventual team plays him as a traditional safety from the jump. As a safety, Branch is more of the “do your job” type than a playmaker. Which is fine – I’ll remind you that “safe” is the basis of the position’s name. And that’s essentially how I view Branch: a fine safety prospect who has age and experience on his side.
Grade: Late Second Round / Early Third Round
Pro Comp: Anthony Harris
- Penn State 2021
- Maryland 2022
- Penn State 2022
- Ohio State 2022
- TCU 2022