Jaguars bolster secondary with Brian Branch in The 33rd Team latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft

Alabama DB Brian Branch (14) delivers a hit on Austin Peay WR Drae McCray (10) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama DB Brian Branch (14) delivers a hit on Austin Peay WR Drae McCray (10) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /

The downside of making the playoffs is the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t have a draft selection in the top 10. Then again, that’s not much of a bad thing when you take into account that there will be many players available when they pick at No. 24, including Alabama safety Brian Brain, who falls to them in The 33rd Team’s latest 2023 Mock Draft.

The 33rd Team’s scouting department projects that Jacksonville will take Branch with the 24th overall pick given all the “quality quarterback play” in the AFC.

"Teams in the AFC need to have a stable of coverage players to counter the depth of quality quarterback play littered throughout the conference. Branch is a versatile chess piece who plays with outstanding instincts an toughtness."

Even though Branch is listed as safety, he often lined up in the slot for the Crimson Tide. At 6’0″, 193 pounds, he has no trouble keeping up with opposing receivers, and is  a sure tackler, missing just four of 173 attempts, per Pro Football Focus. He’s equally adept at stopping the run, posting a 90.7 PFF run-defense grade in 2022. As a matter of fact, the Georgia native is the top safety in PFF’s big board.

Brain Branch would be a solid pickup for the Jaguars if available

The 33rd Team isn’t that thinks Branch could land with the Jags. The Roll Tide Wire of USA TODAY Sports also believes Jacksonville is a potential fit for the Alabama standout, and it’s easy to see why. If the Jags can lock up tight end Evan Engram, cornerback will be their top need in the draft.

General manager Trent Baalke could go the “best player available” round and fortify their offensive line with someone like Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence. On the other hand, the Jaguars need a nickel cornerback, with Darious Williams permanently moving outside.

This year’s cornerback class is loaded with talent and Jacksonville could easily pick one in the second or third round. Similarly, they could add one in free agency. However, the team’s brass might not want to pass up the chance to take Branch at No. 24. The issue with that is that he might be gone by then. It’s hard to tell how the draft will play out but Branch is currently projected to be a mid first-round pick.

But if the Jaguars are high on Branch, Baalke has proven he’s not afraid of trading up to take a player he likes. Last year, he traded the 33rd overall pick and moved up six spots to draft linebacker Devin Lloyd. Simply put, Baalke will do what it takes to land a player he’s targeting.

All things considered, Branch would be a solid addition to the Jaguars secondary, one that could help the 28th defense against the pass last season.

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