With just over a week to go until the 2023 NFL Draft, many names still exist in contention for the Chargers' pick at 21. Offense or defense with the aforementioned pick is still a hotly contested debate on social media and while LA does need offensive firepower, Brandon Staley still is the defensive mastermind who has yet to draft a first-round star.
After diving into a mock based around running back Bijan Robinson yesterday, let's try to build around Alabama safety Brian Branch.
Building a 3-round Chargers mock draft around Brian Branch:
With the 21st pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers select: Alabama S Brian Branch
Branch being listed as a safety is somewhat of a misnomer. Last season, Branch played in the slot for 74% of his snaps last season. Watching the tape, it's pretty clear that he'd play in Bryce Callahan's 2022 role in this defense as opposed to being a Derwin James partner. That being said, Branch has the requisite athleticism to be used in multiple spots on a defense if asked.
Branch is a true blue chip prospect who has great instincts as a tracker of the ball in coverage and as a tackler. Brandon Staley loves his versatile Swiss Army Knife defensive backs as seen in both of his separate coaching stints in Los Angeles.
It's one thing to be versatile. Not every prospect who has played all over the field in college does pan out. Just take a look at Isaiah Simmons in Arizona for example. But despite the smaller frame and a slower 40 time, the tape and production just line up when watching Branch. He's a fierce tackler who's always able to finish. That much is evident in his 2.3% missed tackle rate last year. He's also able to keep up with 6'2", 220 pound guys like Jonathan Mingo.
The Ravens took Kyle Hamilton in the draft last year despite some overthinking in the media about his athleticism and poor combine. Taking Branch could potentially have that level of impact if he's inserted correctly as a plug and play fit into Staley's scheme.