This Seattle Seahawks secondary needs impact players badly. Quandre Diggs high level of play slipped last season, Ryan Neal was good but not great and is a restricted free agent, and Jamal Adams’ future with the team is uncertain given his expanding injury history. We’ve discussed at length the teams need to bring in a corner across from Tariq Woolen. However, we have yet to have the conversation of Seattle adding a safety or someone who can play both positions. There is a player who fits that versatile defender bill in this draft in Brian Branch who is viewed as one of the classes premier players. Down below we are going to break down AP Second-Team All-American.
Height - 6 foot - Weight - 193 pounds
Games watched - 2021 Arkansas - 2022 Mississippi State, Texas, Tennessee
- Branch’s is a very good (7 on 1-9 scouting scale) blitzer. He does a great job of timing the snap count only moving downhill right before the snap. Branch’s burst is very good, and he has an ability to navigate traffic near the line of scrimmage allowing him to impact the throw of the quarterback or get a sack.
- Branch is a sound and comfortable zone defender. He has very quiet footwork as he stays light on his toes and never crosses his feet over. He is comfortable defending any route when playing in a hook or cloud flat zone.
- In man coverage Branch is a sticky defender on everything 15 yards and in. He has strong route recognition and is an extremely instinctual defender reacting to what is happening in front of him almost before it even happens.
- Branch is a good (6) communicator, consistently talking to teammates to try and get himself and everyone lined up pre-snap.
- He maintains solid eye discipline in coverage as he does not overflow with motion, nor does he step up against play action passes. On screens, Branch is able to shoot up and fight through blocks to make a play on the receiver or to force him inside.
- Branch has very good (7) instincts and FBI (football intelligence) against the run with both traits bordering on excellent (8).
- His edge contain is almost perfect as he always has himself positioned in the correct spot to keep him involved in the play, whilst containing the edge.
- Branch has the play speed necessary to seal off runs to the outside even if the ball carrier tries to get higher and out run him to the edge.
- He mirrors ball carriers perfectly as he gains or loses depth based on their movements. If the ball carrier gets a yard or two past the line of scrimmage, he gets a little deeper past the line of scrimmage. On runs to the outside Branch does not collapse down trying to beat the ball carrier to the edge, rather he stays over the top of them.
- Branch takes fantastic open field angles in the running game. He understands where his help defenders are from both the inside and up field and uses that FBI to his advantage, situating himself to take away cutback lanes for ball carriers.
- Branch is a sticky tackler capable of bringing down ball carriers around the waist and upper legs.
- He’s aggressive with how he takes on blockers, able to fight through them which allows him to make multiple plays to the outside.
- Branch is a little quick to hand off vertical routes. He needs to carry receivers running down the field a bit longer to reduce the throwing window especially when nobody is running in front of him.
- When defending a deep half or third, Branch struggles as he breaks it down too early, almost anticipating that the receiver is going to be staying in front. He gets a little too low in his crouch and does not get his hands on the receiver, letting them blow by him.
- When Branch is playing tighter to the receiver, he has a tendency to get a little grabby especially at the stem of the route. This did result in multiple penalties which is something that is going to have to be further refined at the next level.
- More physical ball carriers are able to occasionally drag him for a few yards before help arrives or he is finally able to corral them to the ground.
Floor/ceiling - Branch has the versatility, tackling ability, instincts, FBI, eyes and blitzing capabilities to be a high-end starter early in his career. However, his struggles on vertical routes, inconsistent motor and grabby nature at the stem gives him the floor of a third defensive starter.
Grade - 6.7 - Three-down level starter on the first day of his second season
Grade explanation - The only thing holding me back on Branch’s grade was how he defended vertical routes in both man and zone coverage. Outside of that he is an amazing prospect who can contend for the Defensive Rookie of the Year and if drafted in the right system might be a high-end player (7.0) in his rookie season. He has solid traits across the board and is an extremely intelligent player who will not need an adjustment to get up to speed with the pro game. Branch’s versatility paired with his overall talent makes him one of the most intriguing players in this class.
Schematic fit - Branch has the versatility and athleticism needed to play across the secondary and even some at linebacker in any scheme. At the present moment he is slightly better suited for a zone coverage scheme where he is covering underneath routes. Although, he would be fine in a man coverage scheme as well due to his route recognition. I believe Branch is best suited to play in the slot as well as some safety and linebacker depending on the scheme and situation.