Skip to main content

For NFL Draft's Youngest Player, the Waiting Was the Hardest Part

Drafting of Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen Gives the Jets a Unique Wisconsin Connection

Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) scores a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against the Georgia Southern Eagles, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Madison, Wis. The Badgers won 34-14. (Photo by David Stluka/Wisconsin Athletic Communications)

The wait was longer than expected for Braelon Allen, but the Wisconsin product was happy about his destination. Allen, the 11th running back selected in the 2024 NFL Draft and the seventh and final back taken in Round 4, went to the Jets with pick No. 134.

"It was an incredible, incredible feeling," Allen told Jets reporters. "A lot of backs were flying off the board. We knew eventually it was going to come, but obviously we waited around a little longer than we had hoped for and maybe even more than we expected. But once I got that call, it was a great feeling. Nothing but joy and happiness and I'm very excited to be a part of this organization."

The Jets have plenty of Wisconsin ties on the current roster and historically. Center Joe Tippmann (drafted from the Badgers in the second round, No. 43 overall, last year) will block for Allen at times and the rookie will likely have an opportunity to take handoffs and grab a few passes from Aaron Rodgers (who spent 18 seasons slinging passes at Green Bay's Lambeau Field).

The Jets, of course, have other links to the Badger State. The team most notably drafted edge Will McDonald (a native of Pewaukee) last year, signed safety and Wisconsin alum Jim Leonhard in 2009, and perhaps most famously used a first-round draft pick (No. 10 overall) to take Badger star wide receiver Al Toon (a member of the Jets Ring of Honor) who played eight stellar seasons in green and white.

Allen will reunite with Tippmann, who blocked for him at Camp Randall Stadium.

"Incredibly excited, that's my guy," Allen told team reporter Caroline Hendershot. "I'm looking forward to running behind him again." And on the topic of playing with Rodgers, he said: "That's going to be unreal. Definitely going to be a surreal feeling to be in the backfield with him. Growing up as a Wisconsin kid, really 40-45 minutes from Green Bay, my family is really Packers fans for the most part and Rodgers has been the guy."

Allen (6-1, 235) graduated from Fond du Lac High School in three years and will be a spry 20 years old for his entire Jets rookie season. Wearing No. 0 through his collegiate career in Madison, he led the Badgers' historically strong run game in all three of his seasons at UW. He had initially signed to play as a safety/linebacker.

"We're excited about these two young backs we brought in in Braelon and Isaiah [Davis]," GM Joe Douglas said. "Big backs, productive backs. It adds great competition in the room. Obviously, we have a dynamic player in Breece [Hall]. We're still very excited about Izzy [Abanikanda], but we have four backs. It's going to be a pretty cool room. Young stable of stallions to see how they do and see how they compete."

The Jets drafted Davis in Round 5 (No. 173) out of South Dakota State.

Allen led the Badgers last season with 984 rushing yards at 5.4 yards/carry with 12 touchdowns. Even though he missed time with a lower leg injury, he played in 11 games and started 9. In addition, the Badgers' offense took on a more balanced attack than it had in the past, under first-year coach Luke Fickell.

Allen showed his myriad talent during the 2021 and '22 seasons, rushing for 1,268 yards as a freshman at 6.8 yards/carry and 12 rushing TDs, then 1,242 yards, at 5.4 per. In 2021, he set a Wisconsin record with the most consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards for a freshman -- 7. In 2022, he set a school mark with a 96-yard TD run against Illinois State. He finished his Wisconsin career No. 9 in school history with 3,494 career rushing yards.

"Can't wait to get to work," Allen told Hendershot.

The Jets had their eyes on Allen before the draft, which included a meeting with running backs coach Tony Dews at the Combine.

"Very brief, just like during the informal interviews at the Combine," Allen said. "I just remember them giving me a little test, a little quiz about their team and what-not. I gave him back the test and he said I was the smoothest, quickest and most accurate through the test, so I think I left a pretty good impression."

Allen called himself a "running back with a defensive player's mindset."

"I was recruited as a defensive player, a safety slash linebacker hybrid, so I run the ball with that mentality of punishing and creating contact. That's what gives me that physical, downhill running."

Related Content