Terry Fontenot and Company have done a high-quality job so far when it comes to the NFL Draft. Kyle Pitts and Drake London are stars. Desmond Ridder could be the quarterback of the future, and other late-round selections — like Avery Williams and Tyler Allgeier — have Pro Bowl potential in their respective roles. The only way to build a sustainable winner is through the draft, and with one more productive class, the Falcons may finally be able to consider themselves out from under the rebuild.
This continues my series of potential first-round draft targets for the Falcons. If you missed any previous editions of the series, follow the links below:
Brian Branch Draft Profile:
It might be unlikely for the Falcons to take a shot on Branch with the 8th overall pick. He’s slotted by most to go in the mid-to-late first round. However, he’s among my favorite prospects in the draft, and there are still several ways the Falcons could end up with him in the first round. A trade back scenario is always possible, and they could also trade back up into the first round if Branch begins to fall.
A junior out of Alabama, Branch is a versatile defensive back that can play in the slot, safety, and even rush the passer off the line of scrimmage. These are type of players that have become so valuable in today’s NFL, and given the Falcons needs all over the defense, he would help cover a lot of the holes.
Branch’s biggest strengths are his instincts and football IQ. He’s fantastic at quickly recognizing plays as a safety, getting off blockers, and attacking ball carries behind the line of scrimmage, which led to 14 tackles for loss this season. Because of that, it’s likely he will spend his NFL career as a nickel/safety, playing close to the line of scrimmage where he feels most comfortable.
Branch’s weaknesses are obvious. He was better in man coverage as a Junior, but it’s not something that currently fits his skill set. Branch has to improve in that area if he ever wants to become one of the premier defensive backs in the league, which is likely why he won’t go in the top 10 of this year’s draft.
Still, this is a young man that I would love to have on the Falcons’ defense. When watching Crimson Tide games this season, Brian Branch was the guy that would stand out every game. More than anyone else on the defense, which featured a lot of talented players on it, including Will Anderson, who will likely be selected inside the top five.
Photographer: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire
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