Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
2022 was a surprisingly successful campaign for the Jags. After finishing 2021 at 3-14, and despite a 3–7 start, the Jaguars won six of their final seven games, finishing the season on a five-game winning streak to win their fourth division title and second AFC South title and their first playoff berth since 2017. With a playoff win in their pocket, a good coaching staff in place after the Urban Meyer debacle (shout out to Dougie P!), and major improvement from Trevor Lawrence, the Jags seem to be on the right path.
Still, the Jags come into the 2023 with some holes to be addressed.
The Jags lost starting right tackle Jawaan Taylor in free agency to the Chiefs, and have their starting left guard (Ben Bartch) coming back from a dislocated knee.
With Arden Key signing with the Titans, the team doesn’t have a lot of pass rush juice other than Josh Allen. Unless, of course, Travon Walker puts things together.
The team was exposed over the middle of the field all season and didn’t have anyone to provide an answer.
So, in considering these needs, I came to the following assessments:
1. The only offensive lineman worthy of the pick was O’Cyrus Torrence. But guard is an easier spot to fill later in the draft (the Jags have 9 picks) and I didn’t think he was the best value available at 24. There were no offensive tackles left that were worthy of the pick, and Walker Little, a 2nd round pick at offensive tackle last year played pretty well in emergency duty. At the very least he can hold down the fort for the season, and he may develop into a good starter.
2. After Lukas Van Ness was chosen one pick before by the Vikings (which honestly didn’t break my heart), I decided there were no pass rushers left that were anywhere close to worthy of the 24th pick. There are, however, a number of them that should be there in round 2.
This left me to slot defender, which made my pick very easy.
With the 24th pick in the 2023 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Brian Branch, Alabama.
Branch is considered a plug-and-play defensive back with every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter early in his career. While he primarily handled nickel coverage at Alabama , he also has the range and instincts for single-high or split safety looks. Although he didn’t run great at the combine, he’s quick, fast and strong with the ability to match up with shifty slots, bigger possession receivers and pass-catching tight ends. He’s also a high football IQ guy. Many personnel guys consider him one of the safest picks in the draft.
“Smart and competitive and way stronger than you expect. He could come in and become a top player quickly.”
“Teams who draft him are also getting a player who plays with intensity and a passion for the game that can help him become an influential team leader.”
“He can do a little of everything. Safety, CB, you can play him in the box. A Swiss Army knife. And wherever he is, he’s a sure tackler.”
- He’s excellent in zone coverage, showing a great understanding of routes and the ability to close quickly.
- Branch quietly developed into the best cover corner in the nation in 2022 who is equally adept at man and zone
- At 6 feet, 194 pounds, is a strong DB, squatting 565 and power-cleaning 335.
- Super versatile can play in the box as a strong safety, corner, nickel or even deep free safety
- Outstanding tackler who is a physical run supporter in the Antoine Winfield mold with short-area explosiveness to leave his mark on ballcarriers.
- His ball skills are very good. Branch tracks the ball well downfield and has the hands and coordination to come away with interceptions even when he isn’t targeted often.
- Does a good job getting his head around in time when playing with his back to the line of scrimmage. Has the ability to cover quickness underneath.
- He’s long and strong enough in his core to steer receivers to the sideline with his hands when playing inside technique.
Brian Branch gives Doug Pederson a plug and play, versatile tool that can play slot corner, safety, or even a LB-hybrid if needed. He is the guy that can provide the answer to locking down the middle of the field that the Jags were sorely missing last year.
Do you approve of this pick?
This poll is closed
2023 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Panthers (pheebthegoose): QB Bryce Young
2) Texans (Phoenix X Minimus): QB C.J. Stroud
3) Cardinals (alwaysaphillyfan): EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts (eaglenomics): QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks (The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop): DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions (Sam2TheMaximum): DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders (joey2arms): OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons (Kephas): CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears (chewy wellington): OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles (Philly21): CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans (RachAttack): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans (Domonate): WR Quentin Johnston
13) Jets (JawnJam): OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots (Amish Eagle Lion): CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers (bdawk4ever): QB Will Levis
16) Commanders (the dog did it): OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers (Dr.MidnightGreen): CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions (DreadPirateRocco): DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
19) Buccaneers (Neil Dutton): DT Calijah Kancey
20) Seahawks (wardbell92): DE Myles Murphy
21) Chargers (Brendanekstrom): TE Dalton Kincaid
22) Ravens (Rollinpin): RB Bijan Robinson
23) Vikings (FierceDisc65): DE Lukas Van Ness
24) Jaguars (Leo Bedio): DB Brian Branch
25) Giants (dkays):
26) Cowboys (w.connell4)
27) Bills (EHyungNim)
28) Bengals (mainmanham)
29) Saints (RiverCityEagle)
30) Eagles (ablesser88)
31) Chiefs (Hoosinole)
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2023 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Jaguars select at No. 24?
This poll is closed
DB Brian Branch
CB Kelee Ringo
CB Cam Smith
TE Michael Mayer
TE Dalton Kincaid
TE Darnell Washington
WR Zay Flowers
WR Jordan Addison
OG O’Cyrus Torrence
DT Bryan Bresee
DE Isaiah Foskey
1) Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud
2) Texans: QB Bryce Young
3) Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts: QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks: DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions: DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears: OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles: CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans: DE Myles Murphy
13) Jets: OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots: CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers: DE Nolan Smith
16) Commanders: OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers: CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions: DT Calijah Kancey
19) Buccaneers: QB Will Levis
20) Seahawks: DE Lukas Van Ness
21) Chargers: RB Bijan Robinson
22) Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston
23) Vikings: QB Hendon Hooker