The Senior Bowl is a fantastic opportunity for the top senior prospects to showcase their skills, put their name on the map and improve their draft stock.
It’s also an opportunity for snap judgements and an awful lot of unnecessary hype.
I read a tweet yesterday that nearly made me drop my phone. ESPN insider and all round brilliant reporter Adam Schefter posted the following:
“To those asking where Texans A+M LB Von Miller will go in the NFL draft, the early signs are, Top 5 pick.”
This isn’t likely Schefter’s opinion rather information he’s received from people watching work outs and from inside the NFL. I suspect it’s hyperbole.
Miller is a guy I’ve been watching for two years now. After a 17-sack season in 2009 it seemed likely he’d declare for the subsequent draft. Then he received a third-round grade from the draft committee and returned to Texas A&M for his senior year.
At no point in watching tape of Miller did I think he looked like a top-five pick.
Here’s what I saw: excellent speed used to consistently exploit college opponents by rushing the edge. The huge production is emphasis on that and his skills in coverage gradually kept improving. At the same time I saw only a marginal first round prospect.
He’s about 238lbs and it showed sometimes when he took on big offensive lineman. I’m not even talking about elite athletes at the position – just big bodied guys who could just use their size and strength to knock him out of the play. In the NFL, he’s not going to be able to rely on edge speed over and over again. The big guys will also be elite athletes, capable of restricting his edge speed and dominating him due to size. He can’t play defensive end or LEO because teams will target him again and again against the run. Miller will just get washed out and become a liability.
Can he play outside linebacker in the 3-4? Maybe – because playing in space will allow him to pick his gap and use the speed to rush the passer. He’s no slouch in coverage – but again he’s a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s all about his nimble frame and speed which is fine in college, but won’t be in the NFL.
For me his best fit is at OLB in the 4-3, but even then he’s under sized and will need to adapt to that position. He’s about 12lbs lighter than draft bust Aaron Maybin (taken 11th overall by Buffalo) who has struggled to have any impact at all because he can’t rely on speed and quicks alone at the next level.
He’s got mixed reviews from the Senior Bowl. Some say he’s been the star of the show, others (like Tony Pauline) have been reporting a struggle:
“Not a good day for a guy that’s projected to be a 3-4 OLB. Was easily controlled by blocks all day and at one point got annihilated by Luke Stocker. Showed decent skills in coverage when he had to move in reverse. Miller was brought over to the pass rush drills to showcase his talents, which were average at best.”
The hype surrounding Von Miller sums up the issue I have with the Senior Bowl. Tape is generally pushed aside while we watch guys work out in unnatural situations. A bit of talk about a prospect performing well suddenly leads to a power surge.
It’s a similar situation for Colin Kaepernick (QB, Nevada). Suddenly he’s a second round pick because he’s flashed a strong arm this week. Suspect mechanics are seemingly ignored because the guy can throw it downfield under no pressure. Titus Young (WR, Boise State) apparently hugged Mike Mayock today because of a positive review on the NFL Network which has boosted his stock.
Some prospects will thrive in isolated work outs and walkthroughs. While you need to be prepared to be impressed and possibly proven wrong – I just don’t think you can beat watching game tape. When I watched the tape – I saw a lot to like about Von Miller, but also a lot of concerns about how he translates to the next level. I wouldn’t roll the dice on an under sized project 4-3 linebacker in round one.
Can Von Miller be a top 10-15 pick? Sure – why not? That kind of pick has been made before. It’d be a huge mistake in my opinion though. I’m also willing to be proven wrong, so we’ll see how it works out.