The Bucs & Brian Branch

April 10th, 2023

One could argue the Bucs’ next move in the NFL Draft is becoming obvious.

Tampa Bay needs a nickel cornerback. Todd Bowles admitted that publicly last month and new safety Ryan Neal isn’t the guy. If you’re watching Neal’s 2022 Seattle film and looking for him playing nickel, you won’t find a good sample. The Bucs didn’t sign Neal to play nickel.

While talking to Joe 1-on-1 last month, Bowles sounded a little down and mildly surprised the Bucs couldn’t bring back Sean Murphy-Bunting in free agency to play nickel.

Yes, the Bucs have veteran Dee Delaney and second-year cornerback Zion McCollum on the roster, but their go-to nickel is not. Cornerback/safety Logan Ryan is 32 years old and still a free agent, in addition to looking like his best days are behind him.

So will the Bucs simply draft a stud nickel cornerback? Perhaps their pick will be that simple.

NFL Draft guru Daniel Jeremiah, of NFL Network, sees Brian Branch as the best of the nickel cornerbacks available in the draft.

Branch, a stud out of the University of Alabama, is known for superior smarts and versatility, traits Bowles loves. And, well, Alabama is know for producing outstanding cornerbacks. The list is extremely long, including Steelers All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, for whom Branch often draws comparisons.

Branch routinely finds himself in mock drafts getting picked late in Round 1. The Bucs hold the No. 19 overall pick.

Tampa Bay needs a nickel, and Branch appears to be a very safe and sound pick that fills a need.

Sometimes a team’s desired pick is hiding in plain sight.

The last time the Bucs drafted a defensive back in Round 1 was cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in 2016. Hargreaves, 27, was unemployed last season and remains without a team.

52 Responses to “The Bucs & Brian Branch”

  1. Mike Says:

    I think he is an option for us, but maybe in more of a move back scenario. I don’t think they will use a premium pick on a nickle corner. More likely a defensive or offensive lineman IMO, but who really knows what the Bucs will do.

  2. sasquatch Says:

    No thanks. Wait until later. Load up the trenches in early rounds.

  3. Tim Says:

    If they want to take Branch, that’s fine, but trade back a few spots and grab a 4th rounder, then pick him.

  4. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    We obviously need an edge rusher, but is there one that is worth the 19 pick and that will produce? And even if there is one there, might it take 3 years for them to develop like many do? Brian Branch could be an immediate impact starter at the very important position of slot, and can also be used as a 3rd safety in the box or in center field, he is that versatile. I can definitely get on board with Branch at 19 to immediately improve our defense.

  5. Tim Says:

    But given the money invested in DB’s already, trade back, get the 4th rounder back and more if possible, and go with OL or EDGE with the first two rounds

  6. SlyPirate Says:

    In his last 3 seasons as a Buc, Winston was sacked 47, 27, 33 = 107
    In his 3 seasons, TB12 was sacked: 22, 22, 21 = 65

    Wirfs and company made an enormous difference. Won us a Super Bowl. We lost Marpet and Cappa last year and we had no running game and the only thing that saved TB12 was his fast decision making.

    The Bucs only have 2 starting OL. That’s it. If you hate Baker/Trask, or want to tank for a QB, then draft anything but OL in R1.

  7. Duane Says:

    I can see the team trading back and picking up Burns. Would definitely be on brand for Bowles, and not a bad pick. The secondary would be a strength, but I am still in the camp that more bodies in the trenches would be better.

  8. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    We have bigger needs than a nickel CB. We should be able to find a descent nickel in the 3rd or 4th.

  9. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    Pass-Oline will either make or break this team-Draft Oline.

  10. Bobby M. Says:

    Licht has had pretty solid picks in the secondary in rds 2-4…..I just don’t see us using a pick that high on the secondary.

  11. HC Grover Says:

    Hope the Bucs have a good draft year. No Plan 9 type picks. No Darden kine. Good solid players are what we need. The right size and speed.

  12. robert Says:

    OL and Edge Rusher will be picks 1 & 2…..still need another DT and TE before going to nickel with a high pick. too much money already in the secondary.

  13. unbelievable Says:

    Would love him on the team, but we have bigger needs:

    OL & DL/OLB.

    Both are MAJOR needs… more so than a nickel CB.

  14. Fred McNeil Says:

    I wish he was a little faster

  15. Pickgrin Says:

    I’m sure Todd Bowles would LOVE to have such a versatile and talented swiss army knife as Brian Branch to play with. And yes he fits a legit need at slot corner and could probably start there successfully right away.

    The big problem is positional value. You can’t possibly draft a safety who can cover with a mid 1st round pick when the OL and DL both have glaring needs on the all important outside…

    And the reason SMB left for a measly $3M or whatever it was is because he knew he would always be the #3 CB on this team after Davis and Dean were both signed to big contracts. SMB wants a chance to be a starting outside corner – so similar to Maydfield – he bet on himself with a cheap one year deal hoping to play well (as a starter obviously) and earn a nice contract next year.

  16. J Ghotier Says:

    I think we are drafting a Safety/Nickel high. Even if you didn’t know this team that well, the rate we are paying our Corners and if we want to retain AWJ here after his rookie deal, we need a starting caliber style secondary player on an affordable 4-5 year rookie contract deal. Whether that’s at #19 or #50 (or trade up/downs), we are drafting a Safety/Nickel in the first 2 rounds I almost guarantee it.

  17. BelleGladeBuc Says:

    We have two 1 tech DT on the roster in Vea and Gaines.

    The Bucs have only Logan Ryan as a 3 tech DT on the roster.

    Our DE/Edge/OLB are Shaq coming off of Achilles surgery, JTS who is a bust, and Nelson.

    If the Bucs don’t draft the defensive line then they are in big trouble.

    A nickel CB is not going to stop opposing teams offensive lines dominating the line of scrimmage on the Bucs defensive line and running the ball down the Bucs throats like they did last year for 4.5 yards per rushing attempt.

    DT and DE are this team’s biggest needs. The Bucs must draft the trenches in this year’s draft.

  18. eric Says:

    I like him at safety but a 4.6 guy covering a true NFL slot reciever spells liability to me, love him at safety covering TE’s but not slot reciever remeber Mark Barron!

  19. gotbbucs Says:

    I love Branch, and I love Antonio Johnson out of Texas A&M. You absolutely cannot have enough hybrid safety/nickels on the roster.
    I’m convinced that is the position they were targeting last year when they traded down, and then they watched all those position players go off the board in front of them and were forced to take Logan Hall.
    For Bowles defense to truly do what he wants it to do, he needs those guys that can play that rover nickel/safety/dime backer role.

  20. gotbbucs Says:

    Guys screaming for a mid-1st round pick offensive lineman to be the pick must not pay much attention to Jason Licht’s draft history.

  21. OrlandoBucFan Says:

    In my opinion, a nickel back would be a third option after we address the offensive and defensive lines. We have to fortify the trenches first. Some decent veteran DB’s might become available later this summer. I wouldn’t waste a 1st or 2nd rounder on one at this point. We have more important other needs.

  22. Bucs Guy Says:

    Absolutely not. Nothing against Branch, but you can get a good S in the 3rd rd. Can’t get a good Edge or T in the 3rd rd.

  23. TonySoprano Says:

    We better not draft a damn nickel corner with our top pick. We already have the most expensive pair of corners in the league and a pro bowl safety. Todd – you’ve been gifted enough resources in the secondary, and with that being your coaching specialty, you shouldn’t need yet another high draft pick to make that group successful.

    Go grab Clark Phillips III in the 3rd instead.

  24. chark Says:

    Not a big fan of drafting safeties with high draft picks. Who are the best safeties now, what impact do they make, There are no more ronnie lotts, steve atwater etc. Safeties cant even breakup the ball anymore. They are glorified corners with tackiling ability. The game has changed. Besides a secondary without a good front 7 is in trouble no matter how good the secdary is. Big believer and always fortifying and bolstering the lines. We need serious help at 3-5 tech def end and edge. grab nickel and safeties in later rounds and free agents. throw #s at these positions in later rounds and see what happens with competition.

  25. SlyPirate Says:

    gotbbucs … “Guys screaming for a mid-1st round pick offensive lineman to be the pick must not pay much attention to Jason Licht’s draft history.”

    Wirfs (13)

    His first round picks have been WR, QB, CB, TE, DT, LB, OT, DE. Their is no pattern. What are you getting at?

  26. 76 bucsfan46 Says:

    Our 1st pick should be in the trenches not a safety. We have been to 2 superbowls and won them both because our online and dlines were dominant. Stick with the strategy that works.

  27. Posey99 Says:

    We don’t have a left tackle…that’s kind of a big deal. If any of the top tackle prospects are still there we take them. If bijan is there at 19 we take him. I wouldnt be opposed to trading back into the first and grabbing Branch or if he’s still there in the late 1st round or first part of the 2nd round.

  28. Elita Vita Says:

    Round 1: OT
    Round 2: Edge
    Rounds 3-7 : Pick wisely Jason.

  29. gotbbucs Says:

    @ SlyPirate

    Ok, now look outside of round 1. This isn’t some kind of riddle. It’s pretty much the most obvious answer and pattern there is to decipher.

    Wirfs is the outlier.

  30. Rod Munch Says:

    No one signed Donovan Smith yet, just make him a low ball offer and bring him back, problem solved.

  31. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Branch ran 4.58 and 4.61 forties at the Combine. That might be okay times for an edge rusher, but not for a 1st Round DB, IMHO.

  32. J Says:

    Branch reminds me of Brian Dawkins. Their measurables are almost exactly the same, and Dawkins ran a 4.61 40 as well. Branch is not someone you pass on if he’s sitting at 19, imo.

  33. cspann Says:

    If Wright the OT from Tenn is there the Bucs half to draft him. Beef up the trenches on both sides

  34. Joe in Michigan Says:

    J: Good call on Brian Dawkins, I thought he probably ran in the 4.47 range. Forty times don’t mean everything, for sure, but I want to see the Bucs with a FAST defense, a good defense that will be their new identity.

  35. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Edge/OT or OT/Edge with 1st/2nd Rounds.

  36. Voice of Truth Says:

    Absolutely horrible idea. This team has GAPING holes at LT and OLB that cannot be ignored for another DB. We let Edwards and SMB walk to waste the number 2 pick on another one? Stupid idea all around

  37. JN Says:

    Would love him but not this draft. Need to load up in trenches- OT, OC/G, DL and Edge. Would love to trade back in rd 1 and get another 2nd or 3rd. Also am hoping Bucs can some how land TE Darnell Washington

  38. Posey99 Says:

    Also Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t even have Branch in the 1st round of his latest mock and as a former NFL scout I respect his rankings more so than others. Pass on branch anywhere near 19.

  39. Goatfarmer Says:

    Consensus again. Shocking. OL and DL. Blocking, run stuff, pass rush. Yes.

  40. SlyPirate Says:

    gotbbucs … His first round picks have been WR, QB, CB, TE, DT, LB, OT, DE

    Zero repeats. They are all “outliers”.

    His best 1st round pick (IMO) has been Wirfs. If you want Licht to draft anything mid-first round it’s an OL.

  41. rrsrq Says:

    Guess that means RB next

  42. Jon Grudin Says:

    Bad idea. Bucs need help on D line and O line.

  43. Stanglassman Says:

    Signing Ryan Neil last week pretty much takes him off the board. No way he slips to 50 without a bong gasmask picture.

  44. Rand Says:

    Now that we have Neal at safety what about ball hawk A. Winfield Jr at nickel?

  45. Goatfarmer Says:

    Ok someone send Branch a bong with a gas mask.

  46. Pewter Power Says:

    Not saying it’s a good or bad idea but the thought of drafting a guy 19th overall to play mainly nickel sounds insane but the league has changed. Just makes me Mark Barron nervous

  47. Buccos Says:

    Didn’t Mark Barron play for Alabama? Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.

  48. David Says:

    I prefer a tackle and DL, but if they feel they can get those in round 2-3 and he’s the best fit, go for it.

  49. garro Says:

    Love the guy….Love a big fat Tackle more!

  50. Fansince76 Says:

    Branch is too slow to be picked at 19 and he’s from Alabama.

    They should draft their best edge pass rusher in first round!
    or if they go offense then Hooker or Robinson if available.

  51. Brandon Says:

    There’s way better players than Branch at that spot and players just as good as Branch available later. I don’t think he fits what Bowles likes to do on defense.

    For anyone still HOPING to get Hooker in round 1… the dude MIGHT crack the top 50. He’s coming off an ACL, he’ll be 26 this season, and he ran the Air Raid offense in college. There are so many things he’ll need to overcome, NFL scouts and GMs are NOT investing a 1st rounder on him… his ceiling is a mid 2nd… I think he’ll go closer to the top of round 3.

  52. Stanglassman Says:

    We will all see if Branden is correct that Hooker will be there for the Bucs at 50 or not. That what I love about the draft your prediction are true or not on display for everyone to display. I say top 50 for sure. He says top of the 3rd.

    I think if the Bucs want him they’re going to have to take him at 19 or trade back but not too far. Many teams have Hooker rated 3rd best on their internal boards. Teams like Raiders, Seahawks and Titans want him too. If he went in the first round I wouldn’t be surprised one bit. Yes he is 25 and coming off a ACL bit he’s also a really good QB and that’s premium asset in todays NFL. Air raid Qbs have and will continue to succeed in the NFL.