Alabama Football: Biggest NFL Draft Decisions Post-Sugar Bowl

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 3
Alabama Football
Alabama Football /

Defensive backs Brian Branch and Eli Ricks would make an enormous difference should they opt to return. Both are impact players that could fundamentally change the 2023 Alabama defense with their experience and skillsets.

Alabama Football: Safety Brian Branch

Brian Branch was the best defensive back on the team, and one of the best defenders in the country in 2022. He was snubbed from All-SEC honors, but was named a second team All-American by the Associated Press. Heading into the bowl game, the versatile Branch has 78 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, and seven pass breakups.

Branch can effectively play either safety position, but most often lines up in the slot in Bama’s nickel package. He is extremely disruptive and is adept at blitzing and playing in the box. If he returns for his senior year, he would give Alabama football a lot of flexibility in the secondary. As it stands, fellow veterans Malachi Moore, Kristian Story, and Devonta Smith will be in the mix for starting roles. The incoming freshmen class, led by 5-star Caleb Downs, will also make a splash.

Alabama Football: CB Eli Ricks

Cornerback Eli Ricks saw limited reps this season due to multiple injuries and other obstacles. He has started just four games this season and made seven tackles, yet his draft grade remains high. Ricks was able to display his freakish athletic traits and superior coverage skills in his opportunities this season.

Should he return in 2023 and be available to Alabama in a full-time capacity, he could raise the ceiling of the Crimson Tide defense. In theory, Ricks would combine with Kool-Aid McKinstry to give Alabama a lockdown cornerback tandem. Terrion Arnold, Jahquez Robinson, and a wealth of young talent would provide depth behind the pair.

The 2023 roster for Alabama football is still very much in flux, and there will be lots of questions answered following the Sugar Bowl. Jahmyr Gibbs, Justin Eboigbe, Brian Branch, and Eli Ricks could all go pro after this season, but could also return and raise their stock.

Next. Saban continues to dominate in-state recruiting. dark

This quartet will make some of the most important decisions regarding Alabama’s roster outlook for next season.