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NFL Draft Rewind: No. 25 Brian Branch

Brian Branch
Brian Branch (© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL Draft kicks off with its opening round on Thursday in Kansas City, so Rivals is taking a look back at its projected first-round picks when they were high school prospects. We move on to our projected No. 25 – Alabama defensive back Brian Branch, who was a four-star prospect in the 2020 class.


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No. 25: DB Brian Branch, Alabama

Where they were ranked: No. 82 overall in the 2020 class, Branch was No. 12 in the Georgia state rankings and the fourth-best safety in the class behind Avantae Williams, Antonio Johnson and Jordan Toles.

Recruitment: In the spring before his senior season, Branch committed to Alabama over Oklahoma and Tennessee but the Sooners continued to come after him and try to flip the four-star safety. Georgia also came in with an offer for the Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek standout as the Bulldogs and the Sooners stayed involved. But Branch stuck with the Crimson Tide.

Biggest question: There are not a ton of weaknesses in Branch’s game but the one question could be is he a nickel cover guy or can he play in a variety of safety looks at the NFL level?

Brian Branch
Brian Branch (Nick Lucero/

Memories: What stood out most about Branch during the All-American Bowl week was just how consistent and disciplined he was through every drill, every 1-on-1 rep and then he was outstanding during a 7-on-7 segment later in the week.

Branch was not in San Antonio looking for the highlight play or the viral moment. The four-star safety was just super consistent, always in the right place at the right time and seemed to understand where the ball was going before the quarterback even threw it.

I remember later in the week Branch had a really nice pass breakup in the end zone during 7-on-7.

He was on the quieter side and didn’t demand much attention; Branch was just always doing the right thing and packing a surprisingly strong punch when he was allowed to tackle.

Then you turn on his Alabama tape and he steadily got better and more comfortable in the Crimson Tide defense until he was one of the most steady and consistent safeties in the country. It tells me a lot that coach Nick Saban trusted Branch from early in his career and put him on the field nearly from Day 1.

If the New York Giants need to look at defensive back in the first round then Branch would make a lot of sense. He can play the safety spots but he’s also done a lot of work in coverage. This past season he was excellent picking off passes or using his ranginess to get his hands on them.

Branch is incredibly smart and savvy as a defensive player. There were other safeties ranked ahead of him in 2020 because they had phenomenal athleticism or length or produced a little more on the high school level but Branch has been Mr. Consistent this entire time and deserves a first-round grade.