With star safety Jessie Bates III now in Atlanta, the Cincinnati Bengals need fresh legs at the roof of their defense. With both Eli Apple and Tre Flowers set to explore the open market as well, here are a few safeties that could slot in nicely alongside Dax Hill in Cincinnati.
Day 1: Brian Branch, Alabama
Throw him at nickel, align him at safety, or stick him in the box on the edge of the line of scrimmage, it doesn’t matter where he aligns—he’ll knock your chin strap loose. One of the most versatile and productive defensive players in the country this fall, and the headliner within a DEEP pool of secondary talent for Alabama this year, his impact is felt most in a stat often left for the big boys in the trenches: TFLs. He was credited with 14 this fall, the most ever by a defensive back in the Nick Saban era and a huge nod toward his willingness to tackle and mix it up at the line of scrimmage.
While most teams look to force corners to tackle as it’s not usually in the M.O. of outside defenders to want to wrap up in one-on-one scenarios, Branch has become one of the premier pound-for-pound tacklers in the entire class and would be an immediate boost at every level of the Bengals defense.
Day 2: Sydney Brown, Illinois
One of the most cerebral athletes in the class, watching Brown point out coverages and matchups just hours into Senior Bowl practice was overwhelmingly impressive. Built like a brick house that has no issue roaming centerfield or working downhill into the box, he would provide value for the Bengals on special teams if needed and would become a leader in the locker room for both his play and leadership from day one.
May not find a more well spoken guy in the class. Always so impressed when Sydney Brown speaks. pic.twitter.com/SP72eKeBjr
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) March 2, 2023
Day 3: Daniel Scott, Cal
A standout at the Senior Bowl, Scott won’t blow anyone away with his measurables or testing, but he’s just a flat-out good football player, which often goes overlooked during the draft process. He’s intelligent, physical, had three picks in back-to-back seasons for Cal, and will be a nice addition to any secondary.
UDFA: Morgan Vest, Northern Arizona
Vest could fill a need as both a special teams core contributor and rotational roof defender for Cincinnati. One of the more impressive athletes in the entire class, Vest is expected to run in the 4.3s and jump nearly 40 inches in the vert at 6-foot-1 and more than 200 pounds.
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