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Branden Oliver impressed Chargers 'right off the bat'

Branden Oliver was prominently featured in Marc Sessler's Rookie Watch this week after the former University of Buffalo star generated more yards from scrimmage than any San Diego Chargers running back since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007.

General manager Tom Telesco told NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah on Wednesday's edition of the Move The Sticks Podcast that the Chargers knew they had stumbled onto an undrafted gem "right off the bat" in spring practices.

"We probably missed on him because we probably should have just drafted him," Telesco acknowledged. "We should have hit on him ... Really, the first couple of OTA practices, he jumps off at you."

Telesco praised Oliver not just for his ability, but also for his leadership, work ethic and preparation that allowed him to step in and nail pass protections and read his blocks in his first extended action versus the New York Jets.

Those qualities were on display during an impressive training camp.

Fans around the league noticed a striking similarity to Darren Sproles when they saw the diminutive Oliver's Week 5 highlights in a No. 43 Chargers uniform.

They weren't alone. Telesco said multiple players and coaches made the Sproles connection the first time they laid eyes on Oliver shaking a defender to squirt through a lane.

"I knew 43 was Darren Sproles' number, but I didn't think of it like, 'I'm trying to be like Sproles,'" Oliver said in August, via U-T San Diego's Michael Gehlken. "That's the perception that people are getting. I'm just trying to be me ... I'm like 15 pounds heavier, physical."

That physicality was evident versus the Jets' front wall last week. In fact, I thought Oliver more closely resembled an early-career Maurice Jones-Drew for his low pad level and leverage in short-yardage situations.

Sproles and Jones-Drew are unique success stories among NFL backs of the past decade. Oliver might not be as talented as either one, but he has already proven that all 32 teams made a mistake by passing him over in the draft.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the Colts' win over the Texans and previews every other Week 6 game. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL Now.

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