Braxton Miller came to (the) Ohio State University as a five-star QB prospect. He had incredible success with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a QB, went through an offensive scheme change, led his team to a perfect record, missed 2014 with shoulder surgery, was part of three-way QB controversy and then changed positions. So, that's a lot.
Any player that is going through a position change should be expected to have a learning curve as he adjusts and figures out the nuances of the new spot. Miller is no exception. While he made some plays as a WR in 2015, his overall production suggests he's not quite there as a full-time wideout.
He's been projected anywhere between the first and third rounds by the media and fans, who frankly don't know exactly how to rank a guy like Miller. NFL teams might not know how to evaluate Braxton either because of his unique background at Ohio State. His athleticism and highlight reel screams upside but his lack of big stats might indicate he's not ready yet. In his final year at OSU, he was limited to 24 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns, along with 40 carries for 234 yards and one touchdown rushing.
It's clear that NFL execs, especially John Dorsey and his staff, place a big weight on the Senior Bowl. Dee Ford, Eric Fisher and Steven Nelson are examples of guys that caught Dorsey's eye in Mobile. During this year's Senior Bowl week, Braxton Miller was a standout in practice as he made defenders look silly on a regular basis with quick routes and slick moves. He certainly looked the part of an NFL wide receiver. However, when it came time for the game, he wasn't a big factor with two catches for eight yards and one rush for five yards.
While it's difficult to believe pre-draft rumors like this one, with a need for WRs and playmakers in general, the Chiefs will likely at least consider drafting Miller, so we thought it would make sense to take a closer look at what he could do for the team if selected.
- 6'1, 201 pounds, 31 3/4" arms, 9 1/8" hands
- 4.50 40-yard dash (Combine), 4.41 (pro day)
- 6.65 three-cone, 4.07 20-yard shuttle, 10.84 60-yard shuttle (Miller was among the Combine's best at those drills)
Reviewing the tape
Vs. Va Tech
- Lines up in the slot quite often
- Gets separation
- Outstanding lateral quickness
- Wasn't targeted much
- Ran sharp crossing routes
- Took a couple of handoffs with very limited success; defense seemed to know it was coming when he went in the backfield; three inside, two wildcat, one jet sweep
- Everyone's favorite highlight reel play from the wildcat where he put insane spin move on in the open field and scored a 53-yard TD.
- He had a corner route where the ball was over his outside shoulder but he initially turned inside. He then turned back around, but that error cost him enough speed that the ball appeared overthrown. Might be indication of a guy still learning the position.
- Not much of a blocker; when he made an attempt, he either got in the way or got thrown aside
- QB tended to improvise or run when the play breaks down. Miller didn't appear to make any adjustments in his routes to act as an outlet.
- Made a nice adjustment on a deep ball where he bobbled it but hung on
- Nearly scored on an outside run from the wildcat
Vs. Notre Dame
- Made one good block, got his hands on the defender inside and tight, steered him out of the lane. Another where he shoved a guy at the goal line
- Adjusted well to pass on a slant
- Long run on handoff, shows savvy in the open field, put a little head fake and ran right by the defender
- Came all the way across the field on a shallow route, made the catch, spin move for the first down
Where he wins
- Elite lateral quickness
- Absolutely electric in the open field
- Very good hands catching it
- Has a knack for getting to the first down marker/goal line
- Can adjust to a poorly thrown ball
- Can score from anywhere on the field, and any position: QB, Wildcat, RB, Slot WR position
Where he doesn't win
- Often a decoy, not heavily targeted; could be because of the offense and other weapons around him, could be because he needs work on route running
- He's not overly physical
- Doesn't demonstrate all of the little things that make a WR successful: adjusting to the QB, blocking, tracking the deep ball, etc. Again, position change.
- It's hard to tell if he can execute the full route tree based on his college games (though it appeared from the Senior Bowl practices that he's learning)
Possible NFL comparison
Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb
Potential fit / role with the Chiefs:
His role at Ohio State in 2015 reminded me a bit of DAT's role with the Chiefs; used as a decoy, jet sweeps, slot routes, etc. Looks like he has some versatility in his game; lined up wide, in slot, as wildcat QB, as RB, etc. I also watched a bit of his prior games at QB ... he can make people miss, take it the distance and can throw a pretty pass, even when getting hit.
Perhaps that's all he'd be if drafted by KC: a gadget-type tweener that would make one or two big plays per game, but be otherwise acts as a decoy.
Then again, I would like to see what he could do on punt and kick returns. His skill set likely works for both. He has the lateral quickness and elusiveness for punt returning. He also has the speed and ability to make open field moves without slowing down that would make him deadly on kick returns.
He likely wouldn't be a lock for the No. 1 or 2 receiver job from day one but if he continues to develop as a receiver, he could have a VERY high ceiling in the future. Miller is more projection than production as he didn't put up big numbers in college. If he's drafted early, it's all about upside. IF he can build upon his work at the Senior Bowl, become a precise route runner and a full time WR, there isn't a ceiling for him athletically.
For players like that, coaching becomes a HUGE factor. Does the coaching staff and the offense have a defined role (or roles) for him? Can they help him develop into a complete, full time, outside WR? Can they find ways to get him the ball in space and let him do what he does best? If he is a gadget player, can they avoid telegraphing the play and keep defenses guessing when he's on the field?
IF he goes to the right team with the right fit, he could be a star. Worst case scenario for him is a DAT / McCluster type gadget player that makes an occasional play, but is never a focal point of an offense.
For more on Braxton Miller, there are some good links below:
2015 highlight reel (disclaimer, don't base your draft crushes on highlight reels, watch the full games if you can)
SI.com (Senior Bowl)