Packers trade with Lions already looks like a huge mistake

Will the Packers regret making this trade?

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs
Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

The Green Bay Packers entered the 2023 NFL Draft with a major need at safety.

Alabama's Brian Branch remained on the board when they hit the clock with the No. 45 overall pick. Branch was the top safety in the class, and many believed he would go on Day 1.

Not only could Branch fill the void left by the departing Adrian Amos, but he offered the positional versatility to play across the secondary, including slot corner. A reliable starter with huge upside, Branch to Green Bay made all the sense in the world.

Surprisingly, the Packers traded the pick to the division-rival Detroit Lions, who gladly moved up to select Branch. Green Bay selected wide receiver Jayden Reed at No. 50 overall.

We won't know the real winner of this trade for a few years, but one has to wonder whether Branch's performance in the NFL season opener left the Packers with any regrets.

Packers may regret not drafting Brian Branch after excellent Lions debut

GM Brian Gutekunst took a risk by making the deal. He passed up the chance to draft Branch and allowed a division rival to move up for the Alabama safety.

Green Bay desperately needed safety help. analyst Lance Zierlein wrote that Branch had "every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter early in his career," comparing him to All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Branch showed star potential in his NFL debut against the Kansas City Chiefs, intercepting Patrick Mahomes for a pick-six.

Sure, there was an element of luck about his interception, but he had an outstanding debut against one of the league's best offenses.

"Branch was targeted three times in coverage and allowed only one reception for 3 yards, allowing an NFL passer rating of 2.8 on throws into his coverage. He added three tackles and two defensive stops," wrote Jonathon Macri of Pro Football Focus.

Jayden Reed can become an excellent player for the Packers. There is no doubt about that. He also fixes a need at wide receiver. Like Branch, he has huge potential.

But given Green Bay's desperate need of safety help, passing on the chance to draft a player with Branch's upside is a decision they could live to regret. He could start at slot corner or safety in Joe Barry's defense, and his performance on Thursday shows the game-changing impact he can make.

More Packers news and analysis