Fantasy Football: Chalk Talk – Bolts’ RB Branden Oliver

Branden Oliver

Former University of Buffalo running back, Branden Oliver, exploded onto the NFL seen on Sunday vs the New York Jets.

Branden Oliver rushed for 114 yards on just 19 carries and caught 4 balls on 4 targets for 68 yards, adding a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown. Oliver only played  41 of 75 snaps: 19 rushing and 15 pass plays. According to ProFootballFocus.comOliver posted a 0.4 pass block rating, second on the team behind LG Chad Rinehart. Oliver’s enhanced playing time was in part due to Donald Brown’s early exit with a concussion, Brown played just 25 snaps. Keep in mind Ryan Mathews is expected to make a return in the next couple of weeks while Danny Woodhead was placed on injured reserve for the season.





In January, I started my film study on the 2014 rookie class, Oliver stood out as a running back who plays bigger than his 5’8 frame. Later in the process, I reached out to Oliver and he was more than welcome to take some time out of his day for an interview. Take a look at the Oliver exclusive “Under the Helmet” . Shall we get started on the fun part?


Chalk Talk – Branden Oliver


The Chargers set up in a “22” personnel, with the strong side being the right side. Oliver Is lined up in an I formation as the tailback (yellow box).


This is a base run “lead strong.” As you can see, there isn’t much room — if any. The advantage here is we can barely see Oliver, I’m willing to bet the defense cant either.


Same play continued, Jets’ defense does a great job of filling their gaps and preventing any running room. This is a sign of a disciplined defense; Oliver is still able to get something positive out of the run.


Chargers are lined up in 11 personnel with Antonio Gates in the slot, Philip Rivers in shotgun, and Oliver as the lone running back.


The Jets are able to create pressure with the front four, Rivers feels the pressure and has to hit his check down option (Oliver).


Oliver reels in the catch with the defensive back closing quickly.


The defensive back goes low for the tackle, not wrapping up. Oliver displays his toughness and low center of gravity by absorbing this blow.


Oliver somehow doesn’t lose his balance and gathers control of his body and feet. It’s an elite display of balance.


As you can see Oliver has already gathered himself turning up field for more yards while looking for his next victim.


This part of Oliver’s game makes me giddy; he gets so low that he is always delivering the blow rather than receiving it. Imagine where the “strike zone” would be, well, Oliver doesn’t provide one for the defenders. With Oliver’s running style. he almost always falls forward an additional yardage. Another highlight between the previous play and this play is his ankle flexibility, pretty amazing.


Chargers in 11 personnel with Gates in the slot and Oliver as the lone back. Same formation as before but with Gates on the opposite side.


This is a draw play on 3rd & 2. Here you see a gawping hole open off tackle, there is a defender waiting for Oliver in the hole. Looks like it should be an easy first down. However…


Oliver remains patient and a hole opens up in the middle. If he goes outside either direction he is a sitting duck.


The two outside defenders had to remain disciplined and stay home in case Oliver bounced it outside, resulting in hesitation and allowing Oliver to put his foot in the ground and get up field. Again, you see how his small statue keeps him hidden.


Oliver comes bursting out the other side. The defender under estimates Oliver’s power and cant make the tackle. Oliver’s base is to strong and sturdy to be arm tackled.


The play results in a touchdown. This pose is referred to as “Olivering.”  He does this after every score no matter what the circumstances are.

Closing Thoughts

With Ryan Mathews contract coming to an end at the end of this season, I firmly believe Oliver has staying power in this offense and in the NFL. His combination of tenacity, power, balance and speed is excellent. With Woodhead on IR and Brown simply not being very effective in this offense, Oliver has earned himself a role on this team. This past performance may very well be his high water mark of the season and possibly his career. Could 40 yards rushing and 3 catches on a weekly basis be sustainable? I’d say yes with the possibility of more.

Call me crazy, but I’m pushing my chips all in on this guy.



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