GREEN BAY, Wis. – NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks tackled one of Green Bay Packers’ biggest needs in his latest NFL mock draft by grabbing Alabama safety Brian Branch.
“Adding a high-IQ defensive back with position flexibility upgrades the athleticism and playmaking ability in the secondary,” Brooks wrote.
The Packers have a potential big need at safety with Adrian Amos set to hit free agency. Moreover, former first-round pick Darnell Savage is coming off a dismal season, and while he’ll be back under the fifth-year option, there’s no guarantee Green Bay will retain him after the 2023 season. Plus, a productive veteran addition, Rudy Ford, will join Amos in free agency.
“Branch embodies the safety position, playing the game you wish every defensive back would. He’s also the best tackling defensive back PFF has graded, with only four career misses on 174 attempts.”
For perspective, Branch missed three tackles in 2022, when had 90 tackles, and zero misses in 2021, when he had 55 tackles.
Branch earned first- and second-team All-American honors in 2022. Along with ranking third on the team in tackles, he was second on the team with 14 tackles for losses and added two interceptions and seven pass breakups. He closed his career with a bang. Against Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl, Branch dominated with one interception, one sack, four tackles for losses and a career-high 12 tackles.
Branch can thrive in the safety as well as in the slot. In fact, slot is where he lined up most of the time at Alabama. He could be an option on punt returns, too. He only got two opportunities at Alabama but he took back one of them for a 68-yard touchdown.
Branch went to Sandy Creek High School in Fayetteville, Ga. That’s the same high school that produced Calvin Johnson as well as former NFL offensive lineman Andrew Gardner and current Commanders defensive lineman Kedric Golston.
“I want to be better than Calvin Johnson,” Branch said while a senior at Sandy Creek.
He stood out quickly.
“He’s not a good player, he’s a great player. A great talent,” Brett Garvin, Branch’s coach at Sandy Creek, told Tide Sports before Branch’s true-freshman season. “Apart from his physical talent, which is pretty much off the chain, his best trait as a football player is his IQ. Some kids just understand it the way coaches understand it. He sees it on the board and he can translate the board to the field very easily.”
100 Days of Mocks
Starting Jan. 17, when there were 100 days until the start of the NFL Draft, we started our mock-worthy goal of 100 mock drafts in 100 days. Here’s the 100-day-countdown series.