Brian Branch solidified his Lions draft stock at the NFL Scouting Combine
Alabama safety Brian Branch is one of the more popular projections for the Detroit Lions draft pick at No. 18 overall. He’s appeared in several mock drafts, including my own most recent projection.
After his performance at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Branch might not hold such great appeal for folk worried about finding freakish athleticism.
That’s not who Branch is.
Primarily a slot coverage safety at Alabama, Branch measured in at 6 feet tall and 190 pounds. That’s smallish for a safety, though it does fit with the slot CB profile. His athletic testing was largely underwhelming as well.
40-yard dash: 4.58
10-yard split: 1.59
Vertical jump: 34.5 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet
Those are pretty average numbers–not bad at all but certainly not exceptional. And that’s not great for endearing or connecting Branch to the Lions, not when head coach Dan Campbell and GM Brad Holmes have both mentioned the team needing to get faster.
Branch did thrive in the gauntlet drill, where passes are thrown in rapid fire and the footwork and hip flexibility are tested. Those positive attributes show on his college tape, repeatedly. He’s also a consistently great tackler, and that’s not something Branch can demonstrate in his workout gear in a sterile Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Lions have shown a willingness to overlook lacking physical or athletic attributes in one area or another with a player–think Penei Sewell’s unusually short arms for his position. It requires the tape to reinforce that the player won’t be limited on the field. Or, as Campbell said this week, “you grade players off tape, you don’t grade off somebody out here in pajamas.”
By that criteria, Branch’s combine performance shouldn’t hurt his stock too much in the Lions’ eyes.