|Michael Conroy/Associated Press|
|Ohio State's Braxton Miller needs to show great improvement in the passing game to prove he's an NFL prospect at QB.|
I would never question Urban Meyer's football knowledge or his evaluation skills based on his impeccable career resume, but I believe the Ohio State head coach was overselling Braxton Miller's pro potential at Big Ten Media Days. While the senior standout is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous playmakers in college football, he is not "close" (as Meyer suggested on Monday) to joining the ranks of the elite quarterbacks in the 2015 class based on what I've seen from the Buckeyes' star over the past few years.
Sure, Miller has provided a host of jaw-dropping plays for the Buckeyes since stepping into the starting line up as a freshman in 2011, but his game isn't polished enough to thrust him into the conversation with Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and even Connor Cook as one of the top quarterbacks in the class. I chronicled Miller's flaws in great detail after watching his spectacularly inconsistent performance against Michigan at the end of the regular season.
In a game in which Miller completely dominated the action with his legs (16 rushes for 153 yards with 3 TDs), the Buckeyes' star couldn't hit the side of a barn as a passer (6 of 15 for 133 yards with 2 TDs and an interception). He repeatedly missed receivers high and wide on short-, intermediate and deep throws, and didn't exhibit the accuracy expected of an elite quarterback at the next level. Most importantly, he lacked the pocket awareness, anticipation and instincts to effectively function as a pocket passer at the next level.
Now, I could easily chalk up Miller's poor performance against the Wolverines as simply a bad game, but I watched him struggle the following week in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State. He continued to struggle with his accuracy and ball placement against the Spartans, completing only 8 of 21 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. To his credit, he kept the Buckeyes in the game by making a number of spectacular plays with his feet (21 carries for 142 yards and 2 TDs), but his struggles as a passer contributed to the offense's inability to move the ball consistently against one of the top defenses in college football.
That's why I believe Miller is a long shot to develop into a top prospect at the position prior to the 2015 draft. He has so much work to do as a passer that it's hard for me to envision him developing the natural rhythm and mechanics to be an efficient pocket passer despite his impressive arm tools and remarkable athleticism.
Now, I hope the Buckeyes' star proves me wrong and becomes a dynamic dual threat at the position because his athleticism and running skills would put NFL defensive coordinators in a bind. But the odds are simply stacked against a run-first playmaker making a mark in the league as a starting quarterback.
With draft grades tied directly to how a scout views a prospect's potential and production as a pro, it's hard for me to imagine Miller entering the discussion as a top pick with his limitations as a pocket passer.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.