The Detroit Lions have selected Alabama safety Brian Branch with the 45th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The pick was acquired via a rare intra-divisional trade with the Packers. The Lions gave up picks 48 and 159 in exchange for pick 45.
My grade: A+
Talk about redemption! This is such a change of pace from what we got in the first three picks of the draft. Incredible value, fit, and just a feel-good story. Branch was the last remaining player in Kansas City for the draft, and he finally gets to go home.
Branch was a consensus first-round pick, with most projecting him to go early in the first. For the Lions to get him at 45 overall is a steal. Branch’s fall was likely attributed to his poor athletic testing, posting a RAS of 5.27. While that was middling, his best marks came in broad jump and his 10-yard split, translating to good explosion and a good athletic profile for his position. As our own John Whiticar put it, “think of him as an Amon-Ra St. Brown on the defense.”
Many are pegging Branch as a developmental piece but he has the potential to contribute soon. Not only is he developed in a very pro-ready Alabama defense, but he’s coming to a defense that may have opportunity for him to step in. Tracy Walker is still coming back from a torn Achilles, and as much love as we give him, his high level of play was for a single season. There was no guarantee he would return to that level of play for all of 2022, let alone before tearing an Achilles tendon. In addition, C.J. Gardner-Johnson is only signed for a single year. If he doesn’t stick around, then Branch immediately slides into a more significant role.
Regardless, Branch is a damn good player who will end up being a key piece on the back of the Lions defense; it’s just a matter of when. What a steal for the Lions and a great player who has got to have Aaron Glenn salivating.
What grade do you give the Lions for the Brian Branch pick?
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