In the lead-up to the 2023 NFL draft, Washington Commanders were focused on two positions: Offensive tackle and cornerback. At No. 16 overall, the Commanders selected former Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes.
Forbes was the second cornerback taken in what was considered a deep draft at the position. The Commanders surprised many by choosing Forbes over Christian Gonzalez, who went one pick later to the New England Patriots.
Another defensive back often linked to Washington throughout the pre-draft process was Alabama defensive back Brian Branch. Branch was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide and played more of a hybrid role rather than a true cornerback.
Branch ended up landing with the Detroit Lions at No. 45 overall. Two picks later, the Commanders selected former Illinois defensive back Quan Martin.
On Tuesday, Branch was a guest on an NFL Network Space on X — formerly known as Twitter — and said Washington told him he would be the pick at 16th overall.
“The team I for sure that thought that was going to get me was the Commanders at No. 16,” Branch said when asked which team he felt confident would take him in April’s draft.
“I felt like, you know, they told me that if I’m still available at 16, they were going to get me. But, I guess you can never take their word, somebody’s word. You gotta let it play out. Everything happens for a reason. I’m glad I’m with Detroit.”
The Washington Commanders told Brain Branch they were going to draft him at 16. @Snide_Remarks @Tiller56 @Sam4TR @LouieTeeNetwork @TaeNToddPodcast @BleedinBnG @JoshTaylorFB @BenStandig @john_keim @nflrums @Washington_Wire @RealChrisCotts pic.twitter.com/W3RSuGf5R1
— Board Comments (@board_comments) December 6, 2023
The jury will remain out on all rookies, but Forbes has had a tough start to his NFL career. He struggled early in the season and was benched. He returned in Week 9 and had his best NFL game. He was injured in Week 11 and has missed the last two games.
As for Branch, he’s one of Detroit’s starting safeties, and he’s played in 10 games with seven starts. He’s recorded 58 tackles, including seven for loss, with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown in his first NFL game.
There was never a question about Branch as a player. What Washington needed the most was a starting cornerback, so one of Forbes, Gonzalez, or Deonte Banks made the most sense. If Branch had been available at No. 47, it’s likely he would’ve ended up in Washington.
You can listen to the entire space here.