|Jay LaPrete/Associated Press|
|Ohio State QB Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season after suffering a shoulder injury in practice.|
When the news broke about Ohio State QB Braxton Miller missing 2014 due to a season-ending shoulder injury, I immediately wondered how the Buckeyes would replace their most explosive weapon and how his absence would impact the team's national title hopes this fall.
Looking at the Buckeyes' roster, I don't believe there is one offensive player capable of making up for the loss of a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year who has accounted for over 8,300 yards of total offense and 84 total touchdowns. Miller is an explosive dual-threat quarterback with outstanding athleticism and running skills to complement a strong arm. Although he was never regarded as a pure pocket passer, Miller was competent enough in the pocket to produce 10 200-yard passing games in his career, while completing 59.3 percent of his passes and compiling a 146.7 passing efficiency mark. Now, I've certainly pointed out the flaws in his game as a passer in previous posts, but he possesses a strong arm and he flashes enough potential to merit some consideration as a pro prospect.
As a runner, Miller posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, exhibiting a powerful running style that made him difficult to bring down on the perimeter. Miller was unquestionably the most explosive weapon on the field whenever he stepped between the lines; his ability to break off big runs as the triggerman in the Buckeyes' spread offense made the unit nearly impossible to slow down despite opponents' best efforts. Thus, NFL types were certainly intrigued by his talent and potential as an offensive weapon at the next level.
Given Miller's injury history and the strengths/weaknesses of his game, here are three pressing questions surrounding the Ohio State star and his future:
1. Did Miller make the right decision in taking a redshirt year this fall?
Yes. Miller should take a redshirt year to fully heal from his injury and better prepare to play quarterback at the collegiate and NFL levels. While he is an intriguing talent with unbelievable physical tools, he is a run-first quarterback who lacks the pocket-passing skills to seriously compete for a starting quarterback job in the NFL. Thus, he will be better served by continuing to work on his skills on the practice field under the watchful eye of Urban Meyer. Remember, Meyer helped Tim Tebow become a first-round pick despite his noticeable flaws as a passer by featuring him in an offense that accentuated his skills as a dynamic playmaker in the backfield. While at Utah, he also helped develop Alex Smith into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Meyer has already helped Miller progress significantly as a playmaker over the past two seasons, and another two years in Columbus will help his game immensely as a passer.
Granted, the additional time might not make him a polished pocket passer worthy of consideration in the first round, but the time served on the practice field will definitely enhance his football IQ, help him build up his body and make him better prepared for the rigors of the pro game. Thus, it will be a worthwhile investment for Miller in his personal development to spend extra time on campus and eschew the temptation of leaving for the NFL.
2. Would a position change help Miller's chances of making an NFL roster in the future?
Given Miller's extraordinary athleticism and suspect passing skills, he could be pegged for a position switch at the next level. He is such an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands that a creative offensive coordinator would love to take advantage of his home-run ability by finding a way to use him on the perimeter. Recently, we have seen NFL teams take chances on collegiate quarterbacks like Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch, MarQueis Gray and Joe Webb to capitalize on their unique athleticism and versatility. Thus, I'm quite confident that several scouts would stand on the table for Miller as an "athlete" and attempt to move him to a position that would give him a chance to make an NFL roster.
Looking at Miller closely over the past two seasons, I believe he could follow former Big Ten MVP Michael Robinson's blueprint into the NFL. The recently retired Pro Bowler entered the league as a running back and carved out a niche as a special-teams standout before becoming a starter (fullback) in the NFL. He cast aside his ego to make the change prior to entering the draft, and the position switch enabled him to enjoy a long career as a journeyman. Now, Robinson spent time at several positions during his collegiate career (quarterback, wide receiver and running back), but his combination of size, strength and athleticism mirrors Miller's talents and makes the switch a worthwhile consideration for the Ohio State star.
If Miller elected to make the move as a senior next season, he could enhance his chances of making an NFL roster by working on his skills at the collegiate level instead of making a difficult switch during an abbreviated offseason program.
3. If Miller enters the draft as a QB prospect, where would NFL scouts likely rank him on draft boards around the league?
Miller likely rates as a borderline late-round prospect at this time. He is a suspect pocket passer and his lengthy medical history makes it tough to endorse his candidacy as a mid-round quarterback prospect. While I would love to bring Miller in as an "athlete" with a position switch in mind, I wouldn't expend a draft pick on him unless he was willing to consider a playing running back, wide receiver or kick returner if he couldn't cut the mustard as a quarterback.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.