Brian Branch outpaced other NFL defensive backs last season in deeper metric

Brian Branch had an excellent rookie season, and another metric clearly shows it.
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Brian Branch was easy to immediately tag as a steal for the Detroit Lions in the 2023 NFL Draft, then he went out and showed it. From a pick-six off Patrick Mahomes in Week 1 to finishing as Pro Football Focus' 14th-highest graded cornerback for the season, he also led the Lions with 13 pass breakups over his 15 games (nine starts).

Branch admitted there are some areas he can improve in as moves toward his second season, and there is some talk he'll see more snaps at safety. The Lions' additions at cornerback make that move to safety easier to see, but moving Branch off the nickel corner role he was so good in last season too much feels foolish.

Along with those team-leading 13 pass breakups, Branch was fifth on the Lions in total tackles (74) and tied for second in tackles for loss (seven) last season. His three interceptions were tied for second on the team.

Deeper metric further shows how good Brian Branch was as a rookie

James Foster of AtoZ Sports highlighted Pro Football Focus' "impact play percentage" from last season among NFL defensive backs (minimum 600 snaps). Branch led the way, with 62 impact plays and a 7.10 percent impact play rate. The next-best impact play rate was 5.37 percent (Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton).

As noted by Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit, if Lions' safety Ifeatu Melifonwu had played enough snaps to qualify his 5.6 percent impact play rate would have been second to Branch.

Foster then played around with the formula, weighing each stat differently and including percentage of snaps played in the slot. Branch again leads the way with a 7.33 percent "impact play" rate, while tying for the best overall score (with Antoine Winfield) under that criteria.

Branch missed two games last season, and there were some games where he didn't play as much as you might expect (or start). So there seems to be room for more in Year 2, as an excellent rookie season and having a year of experience under his belt come together to possibly make him even more of a force in the Lions' defense.


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