Brian Branch gets acknowledgement on list of top young cornerbacks in the NFL

After a nice rookie season, Brian Branch has been acknowledged as one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL.

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The Detroit Lions got an undeniable steal in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft when Brian Branch fell and they struck on an opportunity to trade up for him.

Branch made an immediate impact in Week 1, with a pick-six off Patrick Mahomes, and he finished with 74 total tackles (50 solo), three interceptions, seven tackles for loss and a team-high 13 pass breakups.

Talking with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press during Super Bowl week, Branch is eyeing a couple ways he can refine his game in his second season.

"I want to say still covering, not really using my hands in a way,” Branch said. “Like down the field, I have a tendency of using them and you can’t touch these receivers. That, and just my blitzes. I feel like I choked on a lot of blitzes.”

Brian Branch gets acknowledged on list of top young cornerbacks in NFL

Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network recently compiled a list of the top-10 cornerbacks in the NFL who are under 25 years old.

Here's what he wrote about Branch.

"Viewed as a hybrid safety/corner coming out of Alabama, Branch made an immediate impact after being selected in the second round of last year’s draft. Branch picked off Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes on Opening Night of the 2023 campaign, returning his first career interception for a pick-six in the Lions’ Week 1 victory."

"Playing primarily in the slot, Branch intercepted two more passes during the regular season while showing off his abilities as a run defender and nickel blitzer. Branch and pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson are the building blocks of an ascending Detroit defense."

As for where Branch ranked, here's the entire list.

1. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, New York Jets
2. Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos
3. Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs
4. DaRon Bland, Dallas Cowboys
5. Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears
6. Devon Witherspoon, Seattle Seahawks
7. Greg Newsome, Cleveland Browns
8. Riq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks
9. Deommodre Lenoir, San Francisco 49ers
10. Brian Branch, Detroit Lions

There's no arguing with the top three. Bland and Johnson are worthy of the top-five, and Witherspoon at No. 6 is fine after his own nice rookie season.

But Newsome, Woolen and Lenoir are less cut-and-dry, as Branch seems to have been demerited based on his role as primarily a slot corner. Newsome and Lenoir showed inside-outside versatility when circumstances drove that this past season, while Branch did not move outside all that much despite the Lions' struggles on the outside. But doing so would have taken away some flexibility as a run defender and blitzer, and he's an asset in those areas.

Ultimately, it's "nice" to be acknowledged on lists of this nature. If this one is done again in a year, it's safe to assume Branch will be ranked higher.

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