Brian Branch Cements Himself as a First Round Draft Pick
Alabama's 45-20 win over Kansas State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl was a total and complete team effort. The depleted offensive line gave Bryce Young plenty of time to set the records he did, the wide receivers got open more than they had most of the season, and the defense played lights out down the stretch after a rough first quarter.
However, one player stood out on the Crimson Tide defense in their effort to drown the Wildcat offense: Brian Branch.
Branch very well may have raised his already high NFL Draft stock substantially on Saturday. He was already regarded very highly by NFL scouts and draft analysts and was talked about as a possible first round pick. A performance like the one he had against Kansas State, who beat TCU, a College Football Playoff team, in the Big-12 Championship likely only cemented that.
In addition to the raw stats that he put up, Branch showed excellent anticipation on multiple plays. Most notably, one where he timed up the snap perfectly to be in the backfield as Deuce Vaughn was handed the football.
Branch's interception early in the third quarter was a major factor in Alabama putting the game out of reach for the Wildcats. The Tide was up 28-10 at the time and put another seven points on the board during the ensuing possession. It was also just Alabama's tenth interception on the season.
To be clear, Branch is only a junior and has not declared for the NFL Draft at this point. It is more than possible that he returns for his senior season. However, Nick Saban tends to advise players that seem to be locks for a first round selection to go to the draft and get their money.