The 2023 NFL draft is less than a month away after the completion of the NFL Scouting Combine and college pro days all over the country. It’s almost time to put up or shut up for teams looking to improve their rosters.
The Philadelphia Eagles own two first-round picks, slotting in at No. 10 and No. 30. The mock drafts are all over the place about what the boys in midnight green might do. Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson recently put together their “perfect first round” for every team in the league.
They had the Eagles taking controversial Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at No. 10, a scenario we’ve covered pretty in depth in this space. Then, in a logical and “home run” move, they take Alabama safety Brian Branch at No. 30. Here is how Monson broke it down:
At Pick 30, snagging Brian Branch would be another home run for the Eagles. The Crimson Tide defensive back is the best slot defender in the draft and has the versatility to play safety roles. He would be a very clean replacement for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, one of the defenders the Eagles let walk this offseason.
Branch’s position in mock drafts is all over the place — from the top 10 to the fringes of the first round — but if he slipped this far, the Eagles would be over the moon.
Scouting Report on Alabama’s Brian Branch
It’s not up for debate: Brian Branch is far and away the best safety in this year’s class. He would fill an immediate need in a rebuilt Eagles’ secondary featuring a slew of unknowns. Newcomer Terrell Edmunds is slotted to start at one safety spot (taking over for Marcus Epps) alongside second-year man Reed Blankenship at the other one. Justin Evans, K’Von Wallace, Tristin McCollum, and Andre Chachere will also get looks there.
But Branch would give them a long-term solution at the position, a hybrid defensive back with extra value as a slot defender. He would be the perfect replacement for C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein says the 6-foot, 190-pounder has “every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter early in his career.” He also praised his football intelligence and ball-hawking angles.
“He’s urgent and has a mind for the game,” Zierlein wrote. “He takes playmaking angles into the throwing lane but does have a tendency to play it a little safe from off-man coverage. There are areas where he can improve but no real weaknesses, which could make him one of the safest picks in the draft.”
Nick Sirianni Voices Support for Reed Blankenship
Head coach Nick Sirianni sounded like he was ready to hand Reed Blankenship the keys to the safety room. When asked about his confidence level in the standout player from Middle Tennessee, he didn’t hesitate to hype him up.
“No doubt we have confidence in him,” Sirianni told reporters on March 28. “We have a lot of confidence that he can do the same thing this year. I think Reed did a nice job last year of playing a lot of meaningful plays and starting games last year.”
Blankenship appeared in 10 games last year as a rookie, including four starts, and finished with one interception (off Aaron Rodgers) and made 34 total tackles. The 24-year-old saw 348 defensive snaps while grading out as the ninth-best safety overall (79.4), according to Pro Football Focus.