Brian Branch, S, Alabama | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Now draft-eligible, Alabama safety Brian Branch is sure to be a coveted prospect on the 2023 NFL Draft circuit. Today, we break down his scouting report.

Alabama safety Brian Branch got off to an early start with his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, seeing playing time on defense as a true freshman in 2020. He’s now draft-eligible for the first time in his collegiate career, and he’s already garnered plenty of interest as a member of the 2023 safety class. Here’s a look at what Branch brings to the table and how he projects as an NFL prospect.

Brian Branch NFL draft profile

Early production can be misleading at times, but it can also guide you to naturally talented prospects who are destined for premier roles on Sundays. When those young players produce immediately, especially at a school like Alabama, it’s impossible not to take notice.

Branch achieved that kind of immediate production with the Crimson Tide in 2020. Arriving as a four-star recruit who had set a new record for career interceptions at Sandy Creek High School, it didn’t take long for Branch to work himself into Alabama’s defensive rotation.

In 2020, Branch put up 27 tackles, one interception, and seven pass deflections. In 2021, he returned in a hybrid slot role and amassed 55 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, and nine more pass breakups. All Branch has known since arriving at Alabama is production. That’s a trait NFL teams will be drawn to, and it’s something Branch brings on every down.

  • Position: Safety
  • School: Alabama
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height/Weight: 6’0″, 193 pounds

Brian Branch scouting report

Following in the footsteps of versatile Alabama defenders like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavier McKinney, can Branch command early-round billing in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Branch’s strengths

At 6’0″, 193 pounds, Branch has decent height and weight and above-average length. But his size isn’t what makes his physical profile so enticing. Rather, it’s his dynamic athleticism.

Branch is an extremely explosive athlete who surges out of his stance. He’s an instant accelerator coming downhill with the torrid foot speed to fuel that acceleration. The Alabama safety flashes elite accelerative capacity when attacking in support, and he has the initial burst to explode past blockers in close quarters and invade the backfield.

Going beyond his explosiveness, Branch has enough long speed to carry receivers up seams and on deep crossers. He’s also a very fluid athlete with exceptional corrective freedom in his hips. Branch can instantly redirect outside to out routes after flipping inside to the seam. The third-year defensive back can easily flip his hips upfield and run with receivers. He’s able to snap around on 180-degree transitions and redirect his momentum with relative ease upfield.

More than anything, Branch has high-level short-area agility. He’s an extremely twitchy and urgent short-area mover who can chop his feet and flip his hips to redirect with rare suddenness. With his elite twitch and foot speed, Branch fits the profile of a hyper-agile athlete who can stack direction changes in rapid succession. His brand of mobility grants him great positional versatility. Branch has the skills to play in the slot, but he can also rotate back to safety.

Versatile defensive backs who combine athleticism and instincts are coveted, and Branch falls under this categorization. The Alabama safety has shown that he can process route concepts in space and recognize underneath routes sneaking to the flats. Additionally, he flashes a quick trigger when identifying underneath routes and snapping upfield, and he very quickly triggers on slants and in-breaking routes.

Branch has good processing speed, but his over-arching physicality allows him to make the most of it. He is an ultra-physical competitor who plays larger than his frame and can dish jarring hits downhill. He’ll blast into receivers attempting to haul in passes over the middle of the field, but his physicality has more practical uses as well. Branch has shown that he can use targeted swipes to gather receivers and play catch technique at stems.

There’s room for Branch to improve his man technique, but his overall positioning is far from a weakness. He is able to carry and pass off receivers and can position himself effectively in zone coverage. To that end, Branch often spaces himself well against two-on-ones upfield, and he has the recovery athleticism to flip around and close on passes when QBs trigger.

In off-man coverage, Branch has shown that he can maintain discipline by squaring up receivers at stems, matching with fast feet, and keying in on the hips to stick to routes.

Despite a lack of elite size, Branch is an asset in run support. With his corrective twitch and foot speed, he can quickly adjust tackling angles when running backs attempt to displace him with cuts. He uses his athleticism well to combat blocks and can pry past blockers with short-area adjustments and rips. In a similar vein, Branch actively squares up runners and surges into contact with fast feet. He’s also a strong form tackler — lowering his shoulder and wrapping with his frame.

Branch has shown that he can lunge to close gaps and wrap up as a tackler. He instinctively squares up with amped-up movement skills when approaching contact situations, and he’s more than willing to crash into gaps outside and wall off lanes for runners.

Overall, Branch is an urgent run support defender who brings constant energy. He runs into alleys without hesitation and engages runners at full force, but he’s also focused and collected while sifting through congestion to track down opponents. Branch takes great long-track pursuit angles coming downhill, and has the adaptability to adjust angles as he approaches.

Branch is a natural playmaker, and it shows both on the ground and in the air. When given opportunities, he showcases great natural timing and coordination at the catch point, and he has the skills to convert when in position. He has shown that he can play the ball through the catch process and dislodge passes with force.

Branch’s areas for improvement

Branch’s athleticism pops on tape, but there are occasional inconsistencies to note. At times, he can better generate and carry acceleration out of transitions. Branch can be flat-footed out when responding to breaks, which in turn stalls momentum. To that end, he doesn’t always show quantifiably elite burst off of transitions, and he visibly lacks elite long speed. While he’s far from a liability with his speed, he can lose a step in deep coverage against faster wideouts.

Branch’s man coverage technique is another notable area for improvement, especially when projecting a potential slot role at the next level. He sometimes gets a bit too grabby when carrying receivers upfield. He can be baited into tugging on transitions when he’s too hands-dominant. Similarly, Branch sometimes attempts to jam without proper positioning, lurching and falling a step behind.

Expanding on Branch’s technical flaws, the Crimson Tide defensive back has room to play lower in his stance and employ more efficient technique on his backpedal. He can be more efficient when managing space in deep coverage, as he sometimes has to gather himself before sinking and turning to pursue. Closer to the line, Branch can be caught too wide and flat-footed at stems which can impact his ability to transition and carry acceleration.

With Branch being a young defender, there are occasional mental lapses as well. At times, he can better diagnose QB intent while following the opposing passer’s eyes. He sometimes passes off receivers that the QB is already keying in on. In those situations, Branch can more consistently use discretion in committing to those routes. Meanwhile, in zone coverage, Branch sometimes turns his back to the QB and risks being manipulated by receivers.

Branch also doesn’t have elite ankle flexibility and doesn’t always employ curvilinear acceleration to gain speed along pursuit paths while turning upfield. While he’s very fluid, he does occasionally experience a slight delay when attempting to swivel around on 180-degree transitions. Lastly, his frame is a bit lean. He holds up well enough in contact situations but could stand to add more mass at the NFL level.

Current draft projection for Alabama S Brian Branch

Alabama defensive backs are no strangers to Round 1 territory. Branch has a chance to end up there himself with a strong 2022 campaign. There are still a few things to clean up from a technical standpoint, but the natural talent and versatility that Branch boasts should put him in high demand.

He has enough size to work with, and he supplements that size with an extremely enticing athletic skill set. Branch is explosive, fluid, extremely twitchy, and fleet-footed in short ranges. He’s also exceedingly physical in both coverage and run support, possesses sure tackling ability, and has the skills and the play style to make a major impact in both phases.

If he’s going to carry over his primary slot role to the NFL, Branch will need to become more composed and efficient with his technique in space. He’ll also need to maintain discipline in off-man coverage on a more consistent basis. That said, Branch has the athletic profile to match receivers in the slot, and he brings excellent reaction quickness and closing burst in zone coverage.

As a versatile defensive back with slot and two-high capabilities, Branch provides a great deal of appeal for defenses in need of a universal utility player on the back end. He’s undoubtedly an early-round prospect, with mid-to-late Round 1 upside at his max projection.


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