The pre-draft process is an intel-gathering mission on prospective employees. And although certain prospects tend to attract groupthink in the scouting community, others generate the varied opinions that come from 32 different franchises with 32 unique approaches to talent evaluation. Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is taking a closer at some of the most notable -- and polarizing -- prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, to determine draft range and team fits.
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What I like
Miller is arguably the most electrifying playmaker in the 2016 class. The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is spectacular with the ball in his hands, exhibiting exceptional speed, quickness and elusiveness in space. In addition, he is an instinctive open-field runner with a knack for making defenders miss in tight quarters. Miller's experience as an explosive dual-threat quarterback makes him a potentially dynamic weapon for creative offensive coordinators looking for a gadget guy (someone to be used on fly sweeps, reverses, as a Wildcat QB and for double passes) with intriguing potential as a WR2/WR3 in a spread offense.
In his first full season as a wide receiver in 2015, Miller made significant progress. Evaluators expected him to make "splash" plays with the ball in his hands, based on his previous success as a run-first quarterback for the Buckeyes, but he also evolved into a dynamic route runner and pass catcher over the last 12 months. Miller shows outstanding speed and acceleration on vertical routes, and he also flashes the ability to change tempo and use various stems or releases on intermediate routes. Although he has a little streetball/freestyle element to his game, Miller's quickness and burst could make him a nightmare to defend in the slot when he masters the nuances of the position.
Miller is a natural pass catcher with sticky hands and spectacular ball skills. He tracks the ball effortlessly on downfield throws, but he also shows excellent hand-eye coordination and concentration on short and intermediate throws facing the quarterback. Miller frames the ball well and rarely drops passes that hit him squarely in the "triangle" (hands positioned with the index fingers and thumbs touching). Most importantly, he shows the hand strength to snatch the ball away from defenders on contested catches.
With Miller's explosiveness and dynamic open-field running skills making him a dangerous threat on catch-and-run concepts, the former Buckeyes standout has the potential to make an immediate impact as a slot playmaker in Year 1. Not to mention, Miller flashes strong hands and exceptional fielding skills shagging punts. Given the value teams place on multipurpose threats, Miller could be a hot commodity on draft day.
Why the range?
Despite Miller's impressive flashes as a wide receiver in 2015, evaluators have reservations about how quickly he can master the nuances of the position and evolve into a quality WR2.
Yes, he made significant strides as a first-year pass catcher, but he lacks the polish and experience to immediately step into a big role in the passing game. Thus, decision makers must determine how long it might take Miller to develop into a full-time receiver; how they project his development will ultimately decide where scouts place him on their draft boards. General managers and scouts affix grades on players based on their potential to contribute immediately. Miller's limited experience at the position could lead to conservative estimates from evaluators, particularly with a number of other talented slot receiver/returners in the 2016 class.
Where would he excel?
Miller needs to go to a team with an exceptional teacher as his position coach. He has all of the tools to develop into a more explosive version of Julian Edelman, but he will need to master the fundamentals of the position before he can use his unique athletic traits to dominate on the perimeter. Miller needs to become more efficient as a route runner and develop a variety of releases to win consistently against man coverage.
From a schematic standpoint, Miller would appear to excel in an offense that features a number of catch-and-run concepts on the perimeter. Teams using slants, shallow crossers and option routes would ideally suit Miller's talents as an explosive playmaker.
That's why I would pay close attention to the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, based on their roster needs and utilization of a West Coast offensive scheme. All of those teams covet potent playmakers with dazzling running skills, which is why they place added value on punt returners. Most importantly, these teams appreciate pass catchers capable of transforming short passes into big gains with spectacular runs on the perimeter.
The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals are also intriguing options for Miller, based on those teams' need for an electric WR3. The Bengals, in particular, need to find replacements for free-agent departures Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, and Miller could be a sensible pick as a WR3/return specialist. He could spend his rookie season shagging punts and playing on pass-heavy downs until he is ready for a bigger role down the road. In Buffalo, Miller could fill the void created by Chris Hogan's departure and the retirement of Percy Harvin. The 6-foot-1, 201-pounder played Harvin's "H-back" spot in Urban Meyer's offense, and he could reprise the role with the Bills in the near future.