VDT: S Brian Branch Could Bring a Physical Presence to the Vikings Secondary

VDT: S Brian Branch Could Bring a Physical Presence to the Vikings Secondary
Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) celebrates his interception against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half in the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Vikings Draft Thermometer series, PurplePTSD‘s one-stop shop for all your 2023 NFL Draft needs. Throughout this series, we will be examining a number of prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, what exactly their role could be at the NFL level, and most importantly, whether or not they could end up playing their first NFL snaps in a Vikings uniform. With that, let’s take a look at today’s prospect: Alabama S Brian Branch.


Sep 24, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) pursues Vanderbilt Commodores running back Ray Davis (2) during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Height: 6’0
  • Weight: 190 pounds
  • School: Alabama
  • Games Watched: Auburn (2021), Texas (2022), LSU (2022), Kansas State (2022)


Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) interferes with Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) in the first half during the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020: 27 tackles, 0.5 TFLs, 7 PDs, 1 INT (9 games)
  • 2021: 55 tackles, 5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 9 PDs, 1 FR (13 games)
  • 2022: 90 tackles, 14 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, 7 PDs, 2 INTs (13 games)


Wide receiver Chris Herren Jr. (22) runs a pass route against defensive back Brian Branch (14) in a drill designed to help defensive backs develop cover skills during practice for the Crimson Tide Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Alabama Practice August 12

There is a lot to like about Brian Branch’s game from what I saw of him in Alabama’s secondary. He’s an extremely quick athlete, and he’s certainly one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in this draft class.

That type of player brings an “it factor” to a defense, and an attitude that feeds off everyone else in that unit. He exudes confidence with his playstyle, and it’ll be contagious on his teammates at the next level.

Furthermore, he backs up this confidence with terrific play and versatility. Branch can line up in multiple places of a defense, including nickel corner and even into the box as a de facto linebacker. This allows him to impact plays in multiple ways whether it be blowing up runs in the backfield or making pass breakups in the secondary.


Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When playing in the slot, Branch can still improve a few things. He seems to be at his best when lining up in press coverage where he can engage with receivers, but when tasked with playing off-ball, he tends to make errors. Receivers can pile up yards with the cushion he provides, and he just doesn’t look like the same player when he isn’t in someone’s grill at the line of scrimmage.

Additionally, there’s a notable lack of production in terms of turnovers. Branch has just 3 INTs over the course of his Alabama career despite playing with some of the best defenses in the country. Ideally, he works towards improving being more of a playmaker in that area of his game.

NFL Projections

Oct 9, 2021; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada (10) rolls away from pressure by Alabama defensive back Brian Branch (14) at Kyle Field. Texas A&M defeated Alabama 41-38 on a field goal as time expired. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft Round: Mid First-Early Second
  • Immediate Role: Starting safety/nickel corner
  • Best-Case Scenario: Harrison Smith
  • Vikings Draft Temperature: 60

Perhaps it is not in the cards for the Vikings to take another safety in this draft, considering they drafted Lewis Cine in the first round of the 2022 Draft. However, we have seen very little of their top pick from last year because of the compound leg fracture he suffered against the Saints.

Additionally, we are inevitably seeing the final years of Harrison Smith in a Vikings uniform, and Minnesota has a need to find a nickel cornerback. Perhaps Branch can fill that nickel role immediately, and eventually grow into the Vikings starting strong safety.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.