I compared Branden "BO" Oliver to 39 running backs: the top-5 running backs drafted in the past 5 years and the top runners in the NFL in rushing yards over the past five years to Branden Oliver. I looked at their size, their pre-draft drill results and their college careers.
After looking at the data, I think BO would have been drafted 5 years ago, but his draft-ability is stunted by his size and the lack of demand for running backs in the draft. That said I think BO has the tools to be a NFL running back, and I have no doubt he will be on some team's roster in September.
The Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns would be the four best destinations for BO. I'll throw in Miami as the fifth team, despite having two big name backs in Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas and adding Knowshon Moreno in the offseason, the Dolphins were 26th in rushing last year so they might take a flyer on a local kid late in the draft.
Size is the biggest hurdle for Branden Oliver and the hardest thing for NFL scouts to overlook. Russell Wilson, reiging Super Bowl Champion QB fell to the 3rd round because he was too short for scouts to believe in. The average height of the sample was 5'11, average weight was 216 pounds and the average pounds per inch was 3.061.
At 5'7, BO is tied with Maurice Jones-Drew as the shortest back in the sample. 70% of the sample was 5'10 or taller. However there are good running backs shorter than 5'10 including MJD, Doug Martin, Frank Gore, Ray Rice and Giovani Bernard, who was the first running back selected in 2013.
At 208 pounds, BO is in the bottom quarter in weight, but it is more useful to look at his weight/inch, to find his pound for pound size. Pound for pound, Michael Turner, Le'veon Bell and Trent Richardson lead the sample at 3.52, 3.34 and 3.26 pounds per inch respectively. BO is about average pound per inch at 3.11, but behind powerful small backs like Doug Martin (3.23), Ray Rice (3.20), Frank Gore (3.14) and MJD (3.13). BO however is bigger pound per inch than Giovani Bernard (3.04) and a Super Bowl Champion running back with a similar running style, Marshawn Lynch (3.028).
Branden Oliver: 5'7, 208 pounds, 3.104 lbs/inch
Ryan Williams: 5'9, 207 pounds, 3 lbs/inch - 2011- 2nd Round Pick 38 - #2 RB selected.
Mark Ingram: 5'9, 215 pounds, 3.116 lbs/inch - 2011 - 1st Round Pick 28 - #1 RB Selected
Giovani Bernard: 5'8, 207 pounds, 3.044 lbs/inch - 2013 - 2nd Round Pick 37 - #1 RB Selected
Has the importance of running backs in the draft decreased due to smaller backs coming out of college, or is it the decreased importance of the running game in the new pass heavy NFL?
Each of three closest size comparable backs were the first or second backs drafted in their draft years, and while Ryan Williams has been a bust, and Ingram is not playing up to 1st round pick expectations, the play of Gio Bernard last year opens up the door for BO to get drafted, especially by a team looking for a complementary back as Cincy used Bernard last year.
Despite his poor performance in the NFL, 58 runs for 164 yards in 3 seasons, It's hard to argue the Ryan Williams-BO comparison when you look at the tape of Williams, which bodes well for BO's draft hopes.