Detroit Lions rookie Brian Branch: NFL draft day disappointment will ‘be with me forever’

Detroit Free Press

Two years of being one of the best wide receivers in the NFL has not washed away the burn Amon-Ra St. Brown felt from sliding to the fourth round of the 2021 draft. St. Brown can recite all 16 receivers taken before him, and he said last fall he’s “out to give every team hell” who passed on him.

Brian Branch didn’t have near as long a draft day wait as St. Brown, but the Detroit Lions rookie said he felt a similar sensation falling to the second round last month.

“It’s going to be with me forever,” Branch said Saturday at Lions rookie minicamp.

The 45th overall pick, Branch was one of four players who attended the draft in Kansas City and did not get picked in the first round. Unlike Will Levis, Keion White and Joey Porter Jr., he stuck around to hear his name called on Day 2.

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Branch said on draft night he stayed in Kansas City to experience the true once-in-a-lifetime moment of walking across the stage after his name was called. The ordeal gave him important perspective, however, on his football mortality.

“Just knowing that one, nothing is granted, got to go hard every day, got to give 100% effort every day and knowing that I think it’s going to help me thrive at this level,” he said.

Branch did not practice Saturday after suffering an undisclosed injury in Friday’s first practice of rookie camp, but he is expected to play a key backup role in the Lions revamped secondary this fall.

The Lions signed three new starters in free agency, Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and expect Tracy Walker back healthy for the start of the season from a torn Achilles tendon.

Branch has a similar skill set to Gardner-Johnson, who excelled as a slot cornerback early in his career before playing more as a deep safety last season. Though he’s listed as a cornerback on the Lions roster, Branch said he’s focused on learning the safety and nickel positions for now.

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“Just anywhere, to be honest,” he said. “I got to learn every position cause you never know. Easy way to get on the field.”

Lions assistant general manager Ray Agnew touted Branch’s versatility and play-making ability Saturday. Branch, who went to the same high school as Lions great Calvin Johnson, had two interceptions, three sacks and 14 tackles for loss at Alabama last season.

“He’s an instinctive player,” Agnew said. “He makes plays all over the field. He can play multiple spots. He’s a tough kid, a gritty kid and is just a playmaker. And you like those Alabama guys. They’re good football players.”

Branch is counting on his experience at Alabama under Nick Saban to help his transition to the NFL, and now that he’s here he said “it feels surreal” to be living out a childhood dream.

“It didn’t hit me when I got drafted, but now it’s starting to hit me,” he said. “Just being out here and playing football again. Thank God we’re playing football again, that’s what I’m most excited about.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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