- Brian Branch, S/Alabama
When we’re talking about the Bucs possibly taking a safety in the first round, we’re really only talking about one guy. Brian Branch is the only safety projected to be worth a first round pick — at least in terms of value for where the Bucs are picking.
The argument for considering Branch at No. 19 is the sizable gap that exists between him and the next-best guy in the position pool. PFF has Texas A&M’s Antonio Johnson listed as the second safety in this year’s class, but has him 53rd on its Big Board.
Tampa Bay has a need at safety after watching Mike Edwards and Keanu Neal both leave in free agency. Antoine Winfield is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is in line for a major extension next offseason, so Branch might make that decision easier if the price gets out of control.
Ideally the Bucs would pair Winfield and Branch together and have a dynamic safety duo, with free agency Ryan Neal factoring in as a sleeper to form a three-headed secondary monster.
Tampa Bay can pass on Branch at No. 19 and still end up alright at safety on Day 2. Branch’s running mate at Alabama, Jordan Battle, is a projected Day 2 pick, as is Florida State safety Jammie Robinson and Illinois standout Sydney Brown.
But if there is a run on tackles and none of the cornerbacks are available, taking Branch is going to be a hard thing to pass up.