In his latest mock draft for NFL.com, Daniel Jeremiah only goes through the 31 picks of the first round. He has Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson, Anthony Richardson, and Jalen Carter as his top-five picks, a fairly ‘chalk’ board and leaving Anderson, Carter to terrorize teams in the NFC West, but of course no picks for the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s not until the fifth pick of the second round that Rams general manager Les Snead will get his first opportunity, so all we can do with Jeremiah’s mock draft is know which players are left available. The one who may stand out the most is a player that a lot of other experts have as a top-20 player, potentially a perfect fit for going as high as 14th to the New England Patriots.
That player is Alabama’s versatile defensive back Brian Branch and he could be a defensive weapon in the mold of Jalen Ramsey. Of course, there’s a reason that Ramsey went fifth overall and Branch won’t go that high—if he’s available on day two, then he will go a full round later than Ramsey—and that’s mostly because of Ramsey’s unique combination of size and athleticism.
Rarely does the NFL see cornerbacks of Ramsey’s size and speed when he came into the league in 2016. So would the Rams get a “Jalen Ramsey” to replace Jalen Ramsey? No. But could they get a defensive back who could play multiple positions on the defense and have a ceiling of a player worthy of going in the top-10? Branch fits the mold.
This breakdown of Brian Branch on YouTube by Ryder McConville highlights Branch’s versatility, elite tackling, and ability to fit on just about any defense.
Obviously, Jeremiah isn’t as high on Branch as others. It’s not unusual though for the Rams to pick a safety in the second round, as they’ll likely soon be losing 2019 second round pick Taylor Rapp in free agency. He’s following 2019 seventh round pick Nick Scott, who signed with the Bengals. L.A. is left with Jordan Fuller, Quentin Lake, and Russ Yeast, but Branch could also play in the nickel, another open job on the Rams defense right now.
Branch is also more than capable at rushing the passer, bringing an added element to a defense that has no significant pass rush left apart from Aaron Donald.
Whether Brian Branch will be available on day two—I don’t like the term “fall” as it implies that the problem was with the player or the teams, rather than the truth which is that the problem was in the media’s evaluation of his draft range—isn’t something we can know yet. If he’s available on April 28th, the second day of the draft, then he could be a consideration that keeps Snead from trading down.