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NFL Mock Draft 2023: ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Seahawks drafting a safety at pick 20

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 12 Alabama at Ole Miss Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay carry so much power with their mock drafts that they have periodic one-hour television specials analyzing their mock selections. That must mean whenever they publish something, we must cover it (unless the Seattle Seahawks have no first- or second-round picks).

This week is McShay’s newest mock draft (paywalled on ESPN+), which has the Seahawks bypassing Anthony Richardson and Will Levis at #5. Instead, he has Seattle picking Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson at #5, and I’m just going to ignore the write-up for that because I’ve lost track of how many mocks we’ve posted that have this exact same scenario.

At this point I’m more interested in how people view what the Seahawks will do with the 20th overall pick, and in this instance McShay is going with the secondary. How about Brian Branch out of Alabama?

Brian Branch, S, Alabama

I have the Seahawks sticking with defense after drafting Wilson at No. 5, now addressing the secondary. Yes, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are both under contract for a few more years, but Branch is versatile enough to play all over, often lining up in the box or over the slot as a nickelback. Plus, Adams hasn’t played a full season since 2018 and is returning from a season-ending quadriceps injury suffered in the 2022 opener.

With great instincts and a complete toolbox, Branch did it all last season: 89 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, seven pass breakups and nine run stops.

We will have a scouting report article on Branch fairly soon.

The Seahawks have never taken a cornerback in Round 1 under Pete Carroll, but they sure as heck have spent a combined three first-round picks on Earl Thomas and Jamal Adams.

Branch is listed at 6’0” and 193 pounds but we’ll get some official combine measurements pretty soon. He earned All-American First-Team honors in 2022 and opted to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, where he will very likely be the first safety taken off the board.

I think we’ve had our fair share of safety position discourse on this site, particularly as it pertains to Adams and his lack of availability since he was traded to Seattle in 2020. Quandre Diggs didn’t have a phenomenal 2022 but he is still one of the best ballhawks on the team and the important thing for him was to be comfortable moving around after his ankle fracture to end the 2021 season. The two of them together take up a signification portion of Seattle’s salary cap, however.

Lest we forget that Ryan Neal is a restricted free agent and would be a starting caliber safety on a lot of teams, so we’ll see if the Seahawks aim to keep him.

Safety feels like a position that doesn’t need to be urgently addressed with a Day 1 pick, so while Branch is very talented, I don’t see him going to Seattle unless something happens with either Diggs or Adams to necessitate such a move.