But Branch said on December 6 that he never thought he’d still be on the draft board at that point. Branch shared during an NFL Network social media discussion that the Washington Commanders made him believe he would be picked when they selected in the middle of the first round.
“The team I for sure thought was going to get me was the Commanders at No. 16, Branch said, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “I felt like, you know, they told me that if I’m still available at 16, they were going to get me.
“But I guess you can never take their word, somebody’s word. You got to let it play out. But everything happens for a reason. So I’m glad I’m with Detroit.”
Forbes has struggled during his first season with Washington. He has 10 pass defenses and 1 interception with 27 combined tackles, including 2 for loss in 10 games.
Meanwhile, Branch has posted 7 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, including 1 he returned for a touchdown. He also has 58 combined tackles, including 7 tackles for loss.
Lions’ Brian Branch Outshining Commanders Rookie CB Emmanuel Forbes
It’s pretty safe to say that without that score, the Lions don’t win at Arrowhead to begin the season. The Lions edged the Chiefs on opening day by just 1 point.
In many ways, that road victory set the tone for Detroit this season. Now entering Week 14, the Lions are 9-3 for the first time since 1962.
Analytics suggest there’s a major difference in the play the Lions have received from Branch versus what Forbes has provided in Washington.
Based on the PFF player grades, Forbes has played a little bit better lately. But he’s still been inconsistent. He has earned a 52.9 grade overall.
Branch’s Impact on Lions Run Defense
The second-round pick has been good in coverage. But Branch is excelling so much in PFF’s grading system because of his run defense.
According to PFF, Branch is Detroit’s top run defender this season with a run defense grade of 83.3. With that grade, PFF has Branch ranked 11th in run defense among all cornerbacks in the entire NFL.
The Lions made a lot of changes to their defense prior to the 2023 season, particularly in the secondary. But Branch should be considered one of the main reasons Detroit has vastly improved in run defense this year.
In 2022, the Lions were ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in rushing yards yielded per attempt.
This season, after drafting Branch, Detroit is fifth in rushing yards allowed and sixth in yards allowed per carry.
With Branch making a significant impact against both the pass and the run, it’s hard to believe six defensive backs went before he did at No. 45 overall in the NFL draft.