Likely NFL destinations for UB's most decorated rusher.
In my last article "Where Will Khalil Go?" I analyzed some likely destinations for the All-American pass rusher, in this article I'll look at possible destinations for Branden Oliver, one UB's offensive mainstays for the past four seasons.
Oliver's draft situation is quite different than that of Khalil Mack. nfldraftscout.com has Oliver ranked as the #28 running back in this years draft class. While CBS Sports has Oliver ranked as the #43 running back in this years class. Both sites put Oliver in the Round 7 to Free Agency area, which may not be a bad thing.
As, I believe, Matt (correct me if I'm wrong!) mentioned in the final Last Bull In for this year, that Free Agency may be the best option for both BO, and Alex Neutz. While they may not get the experience of being drafted, they do have the advantage of choosing an NFL club where they can go right into OTA's and Training Camp and compete for a roster spot and playing time. This may be more advantageous than being drafted by a team in the late rounds of the draft because the player has control over their situation.
Here are a few team that may be good fits for Oliver:
Given the recent turnover in the organization, the one thing the Browns need on offense is stability at both the Quarterback and Running Back positions. After trading away Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, the Browns relied on the trio of the aging Willis McGahee, and relative unknowns Chris Ogbonnaya, and Edwin Baker to rush for a combined 788 yards on 233 attempts with 4 rushing touchdowns. McGahee is an impending free agent, so the cupboard is pretty bare in Cleveland. Oliver could come in right away and compete with Ogbonnaya, Baker, and Fozzy Whittaker, the current backs on the roster, for playing time immediately. The biggest question mark in Cleveland is the coaching staff. The situation is volatile at best, and high turnover in the coaching staff isn't the best situation for a franchise, but, assuming the new coaching staff runs an offense that favors the power run game Oliver would be a great fit and could be an impact player right away.
The Jaguars are in the middle of a total rebuild, and star running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a free agent this off-season and all indications point to him bolting town leaving a gaping hole at the running back position, and who better to replace Jones-Drew than someone who is quite similar in both build and style of play. Both Oliver and Jones-Drew are listed at about 5-7 or 5-8, and 210 pounds (depending on the source). And both backs are punishing in-between the tackles runners with the agility and quickness to break off long runs on any given down. The competition for Oliver would be minimal as well, assuming Jones-Drew doesn't resign in Jacksonville; the only other backs on the Jacksonville roster are Delone Carter, and Jordan Todman. Carter didn't see any playing time during the regular season, while Todman registered 256 yards rushing on 76 carries with 2 rushing touchdowns for the Jaguars. Oliver could step in immediately as a workhorse back for the Jaguars and take pressure off of the quarterback, whether it be a veteran, or likely first round draft pick. The Jaguars' coaching staff isn't afraid to play young players, and Oliver could play right away and provide stability to the Jaguars' anemic offense.
Much like the Jaguars, and Browns, the Oakland Raiders are in the midst of a rebuild and have veteran running backs that are impending free agents. Oakland has the oft-injured Darren McFadden entering free agency after 6 injury filled and disappointing seasons with the Raiders, and Rashad Jennings will be entering free agency as well. Jenning was admirable in replacing McFadden by rushing for 733 yards on 163 carries, with 6 rushing touchdowns to lead the Raiders; which is even more impressive given the Raiders' patchwork offensive line for much of the season. It is unlikely that McFadden will resign with the Raiders given his injury history, Jennings is a question mark. He may resign with the Raiders, or seek a bigger payday elsewhere. In either situation Oliver could step in as either the number 1 or number 2 running back for the Raiders, providing a nice 1-2 punch with Rashad Jennings, or stepping in as an every down back much like he was used at UB. Much like Jacksonville, Oakland has relied on young talent in recent years giving Oliver a good shot to compete for playing time early.
New York Giants
A bit of a change of pace from the other three teams in this list. The Giants have a proven quarterback-head coach combination that has won Super Bowls together, and they aren't in the middle of a total rebuild. Branden Oliver possesses one quality that Tom Coughlin hasn't seen from impending free agent Andre Brown, or former first round pick David Wilson: ball security. If there is one thing that can put a back in the Coughlin dog house fast its fumbling the football. Oliver is known for his great ball security, and its quite a rarity for BO to put the ball on the ground. With Brown an impending free agent, Oliver could again come in and compete for playing time right away with David Wilson. Oliver's hardnosed style of running should appeal to Coughlin, and his ball security skills should put him in favor with the coaching staff, especially if Wilson continues to have issues fumbling the ball.
And there you have it, four destinations where BO may have the opportunity to compete for playing time right away. What are your thoughts on where BO might go?