Reid’s Pick: Dallas Cowboys select DB, Brian Branch
I was tempted to say TE Darnell Washington or RB Jaymyr Gibbs but I don’t think either are really realistic options for the Dallas Cowboys in the first. I’m worried about drafting a guard at 26 because I don’t think any of the options are worth it. Off-ball linebacker is always a concern but again, I think unlikely.
The fear that’s lurking in the shadows for me is a player far too few people are talking about, Brian Branch.
Branch is a great football player. He’s strong in coverage and solid against the run. He has a knack for plays and is well-rounded as a box defensive back. There’s a reason he’s rated by everyone as a first rounder. He’s really, really good.
The issues I have is at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Branch is small with an average athletic and physical tool set. He’s a box safety/nickel cornerback hybrid (played star position at Alabama) without much ability to play centerfield or the boundary.
Box safeties and nickel CBs aren’t regarded as high value positions and the Dallas Cowboys are generally really good at finding low-cost solutions. They currently have a litter of players who play well in a role similar to Branch’s and investing a first round pick to double-down (even with a possible upgrade) is a poor use of limited resources.
Branch is an excellent player in the roles he plays, but those roles aren’t valuable compared to others and he doesn’t appear to have the versatility to be used elsewhere. Dane Brugler has him pegged as nickel CB in the NFL and I’m not one to argue with Brugler’s scouting.
For as much as I disparage RB and TE picks in the first round, I think they would be more valuable, fill bigger needs, and offer more impact than a nickel cornerback could. Even if that nickel corner is really good.