As the Philadelphia Eagles prepare for what we hope winds up being a championship run, here’s something that you need to place in the back of your minds. Brian Branch absolutely has to be on this franchise’s draft radar. We’re almost certain that they already know who he is, but it’s high time that we discuss him in further detail
A few of Nick Saban’s former stars from the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide have gone on to find success while accepting huge roles in Philly’s offense.
The legendary head coach won the 2017 College Football National Championship with future-Eagle Jalen Hurts as his starting quarterback. He also had a true freshman named DeVonta Smith on that roster. The latter two have joined forces again at the professional level, and to place a little icing on the cake, they’ve been joined by another of DeVonta’s teammates on the 2020 championship-winning squad, a man by the name of Landon Dickerson.
Josh Jobe was added as an undrafted free agent this past offseason and worked himself into a roster spot. We wouldn’t mind if Philly dipped into Bama’s talent pool again.
While The Tide failed to reach the College Football Playoff in 2022, they are still ripe with NFL talent. Feast your eyes on a member of Saban’s defense that the Eagles’ should heavily consider adding to the roster come April, cornerback Brian Branch.
He’s six-foot-tall. He tips the scales at 193 pounds, and he’s someone that could contribute early to the Eagles’ defense.
Brian Branch has the speed and football IQ that will allow him to play positionless football. That’s exactly what the Eagles need.
Brian Branch began his career at Alabama as a true freshman in 2020. During his three seasons with the Crimson Tide, he has primarily played the cornerback position, proving his value as an asset in the slot.
Branch has both speed and a high football IQ. He’s once been clocked at a top speed of 22.3 miles per hour on a GPS system. That’s faster than any of the top ballcarriers recorded at the professional level through Week 17 of the 2022 season.
While football IQ cannot be clocked on a GPS, it can be evidenced on film. On seemingly every play, Branch is able to stick with his assignment, while constantly keeping his eyes on the football. He is also very disciplined in his anticipation and his tackling, leading him to rarely miss his spot on pass breakups and takedowns.
As you can see in the following play, Branch is able to keep his eyes on the quarterback with his body moving toward his assignment. He then uses his speed to fly to the ball carrier and make a huge tackle in open space, an area the Eagles seemingly always need help in fixing.
Branch’s abilities give him the flexibility to fit into a number of roles. His ability to tackle and deliver hits allows him to fill in as a coverage linebacker or in the strong safety role. He also has the speed, length, and ball skills to roam the field as a free safety, cover receivers in the slot, and defend receivers on the boundary.
Here, you see Branch flying into the backfield, shoving a 200-pound running back flat on his back, and forcing the incompletion on the play. It isn’t often that a corner can play with such physicality and generate a backfield presence.
This ability held Branch to tally 19.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in his three seasons at the BCAA level. In total, he registered 172 total tackles in his 35 career games, further establishing himself as a phenomenal defender in space.
Branch is also a phenomenal defender when the ball is in the air. He hauled in three interceptions and broke up 23 passes during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. One of his most excellent displays of ball skills, however, came much earlier during his days as a wide receiver at Sandy Creek High School in Georgia.
Brian Branch has the potential to be an anomaly on defense in the NFL. With the size of Stephon Gilmore, the versatility of Isaiah Simmons, and the speed of DeSean Jackson, it would be a shame to see the Philadelphia Eagles miss out on a prospect with this level of talent.
The question is this. Would Philly be willing to use one of their early draft choices to select him if the decision came to that?