Alabama Defender One to Watch for Vikings in Draft

Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

We know what you’re thinking — the Minnesota Vikings don’t need any more damn safeties.

They currently employ Harrison Smith, Lewis Cine, Camryn Bynum, and Josh Metellus. And compared to the rest of the NFL, that is enough for safety depth.

Alabama Defender One to Watch for Vikings in Draft

Well, Harrison Smith could be in his final season, Lewis Cine is recovering from a broken leg, it’s unclear if Bynum will start again, and “the other guy” at safety is a hybrid defender.

Alabama Defender One
Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) celebrates his interception against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half in the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports.

The other guy is Alabama’s Brian Branch, a defender gaining momentum in Vikings mock-draft circles. The 22-year-old Georgia native is plopped solidly in the middle of Round 1 via this month’s draft forecasts and could fly off the board before the Vikings pick, be available at No. 23, or fall a bit to Round 2. If the latter two scenarios occur, Minnesota could strike.

Moreover, the Vikings employ a new defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, taking over for Ed Donatell, who was let go after one season. Flores enjoys athletic hybrid defenders — much like Lewis Cine — and also isn’t shy about drafting men from the Crimson Tide.

Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama defensive back Brian Branch (DB06) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL insider Aaron Wilson tweeted about Branch Monday, “Alabama All-American safety Brian Branch has visits with Texans, Commanders, Raiders, Vikings, Lions, Falcons and private workout with Bills, per league sources.”

So, this Branch-Vikings thing could already be in motion. Last month, The 33rd Team released a mock draft, and Branch was the selection with Minnesota’s 23rd pick. “The Minnesota Vikings are in need of a safety, and Brian Branch makes a lot of sense. Branch has ball production, solid size and speed, and the versatility to handle multiple spots.”

Oct 22, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) leaves the field after defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 30-6. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports.

Touting that versatility, VikingsTerritory and PurplePTSD’s Josh Frey explained about Branch this week, “This versatility should be the main selling point for Vikings fans when it comes to branch. Minnesota is in need of an immediate slot corner, on top of their need for future depth at safety, and Branch can take out both needs in one draft pick. Earlier this offseason,¬†Pro Football Focus¬†named Branch both the best slot corner and the best tackler in this draft class.”

While the manufacturer sticker will say safety, the Vikings (or 31 other teams) may be onboarding a cornerback with safety-like tendencies or vice versa. And if one glances down at the Vikings current depth chart, Minnesota’s CB room needs all the help it can get.

The last two notable defensive backs drafted from Alabama were Patrick Surtain II and Trevon Diggs. Those men have already been named NFL All-Pro, respectively.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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