Draft Spotlight: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

Written by Kip Earlywine

Something I’ve come to believe as I’ve gotten older is that the more I learn about something, the more I realize how little I actually know.  I think every fan has had moments where they believed they were smarter or had better evaluation skills than an NFL front office.  There were times when I felt that way in the past.  That said, after watching John Schneider and Pete Carroll find so many mid to late round success stories, it’s really hammered home how vast a difference there is between my ability to evaluate talent and theirs.  I wasn’t a fan of the KJ Wright pick.  I wasn’t a fan of the Kam Chancellor pick.  I was lukewarm on Richard Sherman (although I did like his upside).  I was lukewarm on Earl Thomas.  And I never thought Doug Baldwin would amount to anything in the NFL, and that was after having the benefit of seeing him in four preseason games.

Because of humbling experiences like those, I’ve come to believe in my own opinion a little less and listen to the input of others a little more.  There are times when I rate a player much higher than most others, but I accept that there must be logical reasons for the divergence in opinion.  Perhaps they have access to information I don’t have?  Perhaps I overlooked a fault or didn’t put enough value on it?  Perhaps my amateur level understanding of scheme and fit plays a role in how well that player can translate his game?

However, witnessing the slow yet steady decline of Lamar Miller’s draft stock over the past couple months has put this attitude to the test.  Miller began the offseason as a possible mid-first round pick.  I’m not a subscriber to ESPN insider, but its my understanding that in Mel Kiper’s most recent Mock (4.0), he didn’t even list Lamar Miller going in the first two rounds at all.  Kiper may be the first to be so bold, but he’s simply reflecting the consensus feeling that Miller continues to drop and drop and drop down mock drafts.  Its getting harder and harder to find a mock that even has Miller going in the first half of round two at this point.

To me, that’s crazy talk.  Granted, Miller only has one full starting season to go by, but his tape is first round quality, and he had a very strong combine.

There is only one good reason to devalue Miller’s stock, which is the stiff competition he faces from being part of the deepest and most competitive running back class in years.  Trent Richardson is clearly the top back, but spots two through four are almost a tie (in my opinion) between Lamar Miller, Doug Martin, and Chris Polk, with David Wilson drawing strong consideration from many places too.  Not just that, but the next tier of running backs is loaded with talents like LaMichael James, Robert Turbin, Isaiah Pead and Bernard Pierce.  Even going into the 5th and 6th rounds, you will find starter quality backs like Cyrus Gray, Tauren Poole, Vick Ballard and Terrance Ganaway.  You don’t have to be an economist to understand the effects of supply and demand, and the incredible depth of running back options will tempt many teams to spend that valuable second round pick on another area of need instead.

Heck, even Rob and I were guilty of as much when we passed on Lamar Miller in Mocking the Draft’s writer’s mock, though we only did so because we felt convinced that a linebacker with the kind of special speed Seattle wants would not last another round.  It still hurt though, because while Rob and I may not always agree on every prospect, we both view Miller as a 1st round talent.  Getting Miller in the second round would feel a lot like having another first round pick.

There is so much to like about Miller, he’s kind of the Lavonte David of running backs:  a mountain of positive features with some uncertainties but no glaring negatives.

First, let’s talk about speed.  Lamar Miller is tied with David Wilson for being the fastest big name running back in the draft.  But unlike Wilson who accomplishes that speed with long strides, Miller takes very short strides which gives him change of direction skills that Wilson can only dream of.  Whereas Wilson is easily the least shifty of the top running backs, Miller is the shiftiest back in the draft.  Miller’s ability to juke and slip around defenders makes him a frequent comparison to Clinton Portis.

Miller has pull away speed and will be a threat to score from anywhere even in the NFL. He’s not Chris Johnson tier, but he’ll be faster than most running backs in the league on day one.  This is a very valuable asset as Seattle still needs to find more ways to produce big plays.  He also has the quickness to be dangerous both inside and outside of the tackles.  Every carry Miller makes has a good chance to be a big gain.

Miller’s vision is a strength and he has the instincts to take what he can get when appropriate or show the patience to hit a developing cutback lane instead.  He accelerates with deceptive speed and knows how to get skinny at the first level.  Miami had an above average run blocking line, but Miller knows how to take full advantage of good blocking and maximize yardage with his opportunities.  In my four game sample I was very impressed with the very low number of negative plays Miller made.  Everything comes naturally to him and he often makes it all look very easy.  He’s also consistent game to game.  Only three times in twelve games last year did Miller average less than 4.2 yards per carry.

I think what surprised me the most about Miller is how tough he was to bring down.  He doesn’t look especially muscular and typically runners with elusive skill sets tend to lack strength.  Miller isn’t quite as strong as Chris Polk or Doug Martin, but he plays hard and can push a pile.  That power is even more surprising since he tends to avoid stiff arms in favor of maximized ball security.  Per ESPN, Miller has only had three fumbles (two lost) in 381 career touches.  Miller knows how to take care of the rock which will have added appeal for a ball control team like Seattle that stresses turnover ratio very heavily.

Miller is only 20 years old as of this writing (he turns 21 next week).  Like Trent Richardson and David Wilson, time is on Miller’s side as he’ll have nine full NFL seasons before reaching his 30th birthday.

One of the drawbacks of being so young is that Miller hasn’t had a very large body of work yet, which means we really can’t say much about his receiving ability or pass blocking.  In my sample he made a diving touchdown catch and never suffered a drop, so I think the initial signs there are encouraging.  As far as pass blocking, I have no idea, but given how hard he plays the game, I’d imagine he’s a willing blocker and will be receptive to coaching.  Some teams who are looking for an immediate three down starter could shy away from Miller because of the risk that he’s potentially only a two down back.  Seattle has twenty six year old Marshawn Lynch on a four year contract, making them an ideal landing spot for Miller as he can work on his receiving and blocking skills over the next few years while backing up a franchise player.

Miller suffered a shoulder injury early last season, but it appeared to be minor and Miller didn’t miss time from it.

In conclusion:

Lamar Miller isn’t just a second round steal, he’s a perfect fit in every way for what the Seahawks need at running back.  He’s good enough to be a legitimate starting running back if Lynch gets hurt, and he’s also useful as a change of pace back in the meantime.  A Lynch/Miller paring would be a lot like the Gore/Hunter pairing in San Franscisco, where Frank Gore wears down a defense and then Kendall Hunter slashes through a weary defense while Gore rests.  You may recall in Seattle’s second game against the 49ers the Seahawks defense contained Gore (3.6 YPC) but was consistently punished by Hunter (6.1 YPC).  Hunter was a 4th round pick last year, and his addition to the roster not only gave the 49ers a future successor to Gore but also improved the running game in the short term.  Miller could do the same, except better.

Wherever Miller goes, I have little doubt he’ll continue the recent tradition of excellence from Miami running backs.  In just the last decade or so, Miami has produced the following list of productive NFL running backs:  Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore.  Miller has the talent to join that impressive list of names in a few years’ time.

Compilation videos:

vs. Maryland

vs. Virginia Tech

vs. Ohio State

vs. Boston College


  1. peter


    you have to like a prospect that has three negatives that are almost tied to the same thing (pass-pro, pass game, versatility as a three down back because of the first two.)

    I like this guy’s speed and his game. I think this guy could be the real deal at the next level, primarily with some blocking….Miami’s line looks horrible against Ohio and Virginia Tech, like they are barely able to stay upright let alone create lanes for him. His speed and decision making look far above average, and from the tapes above I think I now rank him higher then Polk, just slightly and certainly above everyone else save richardson and martin.

  2. Vin

    Thanks for the writeup/videos, Kip. When Rob’s latest mock came out, I was both happy and sad because while I really like Martin A LOT, I also like Kendricks A LOT. An Upshaw/Kendricks/Miller draft would be awesome. I hope Miller’s stock keeps dropping so he can be had in the 3rd.

  3. Madmark

    Everythings has been defense, thxs kip for the change.

  4. Rich

    I also liked Miller after watching the tape. It would be so nice to have a true break away threat at RB. Even if it was just for a change of pace here and there. I ready somewhere (I don’t have the link), that there might be concerns about Miller being able to digest a playbook. In other words, he may not have interviewed well. That coupled with only one year on the job seems to be pushing him out of the second round.

    On another note, I no longer think the Hawks will necessarily take an olineman in the first four rounds. The two veteran pick ups at guard and tackle coupled with word that Moffit may be ready by the beginning of the season makes that a lot less likely. That’s good news. Perhaps we can take a chance on Miller instead.

  5. creid

    Nice writeup Kip. I have little doubt that Lamar Miller would do well in this running scheme- as a complementary back. I’m not sold on his ability to be an every down back.

    He looks like a bit of a tippy-toer behind the line and through traffic when there isn’t a clear lane. That very well could be him figuring out the line between patience and aggression, but I tend to favor the teaching the aggressive guy patience rather than vice versa.

    I’m not impressed with his strength either, it’s not terrible, but when compared to Martin, Wilson and Polk (other RBs in the 2nd round conversation)- I think Miller is well behind. 212lbs is a good sized back, but I don’t think Miller always plays to his size.

    I wish we had some tape of Miller from the second half of the season (besides vs BC). After and incredible first five games, his production really fell off- 7.2ypc for the first 5 games, 4.4ypc for the last 7 games. Only two 100 games in the second half of the season and one of those was vs Duke, which doesn’t really count. Take out the Duke game and he averaged less than 4ypc after his first five games. What happened? Was he banged up or worn down? Was the offense as a whole playing poorly or were opponents stacking the box against him? I’d be interested to know if anyone had some information or perspective on that.

    I don’t dislike Miller, but I do have some concerns that put him behind Martin and Wilson, but still ahead of Polk, for me.

  6. Saxon

    I’m an alUM. Randy Shannon has to rank among the worst D1 coaches ever. All of the hurricanes in this draft class are projected at least one round lower than where they might have been had they better coaching/development in college. Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, and Tommy Streeter are all talented players that will flourish with NFL coaching.

    And I totally agree with your take on Lamar Miller. He would add a great speed dimension to the Hawk backfield and would be a steal in round 2.

  7. Seahawk Steve

    The reason for his drop is running style. It’s an avoidance style with speed. That works great for the collage game where there is always out of position tacklers and bad angles. However; in the NFL game there is far less of that. Consequently, this type of runner is less successful in the Pro. game.
    Runners who can break tackles consistanly (IE Lynch, Gore) are far more successful in the Pro. game.
    I’m not saying Miller won’t have a great career in the NFL, but so far as the Seahawks are concerned they had a runner with avoidance style running (Forsett) and let him go. Unless they are targeting same style as Forsett with a little more speed, I don’t see Miller in a Seahawks uniform. I think after you get past Miller’s statistics and start looking at his tape, most scouts and coaches are seeing what I have said above and that’s why he’s dropped. In addition; there seems to be a good supply of running backs who have the ability to break the first or second tackle and provide some to the power game, that’s probably why he’s getting passed over.
    I think your evaluations and write-ups are great but, I’m not sure I agree with you on this one.

  8. David

    Talks of the Rams taking Fletcher Cox with their 6th pick. WOW!

  9. AlaskaHawk

    There aren’t that many pro players who can break tackles. Mostly they run through the gap to wherever they get tackled. Being a shifty back is beneficial as long as you also gain yardage.

    What isn’t beneficial is running sideways in the backfield until you are tackled. And none of these backs can create a hole – that’s up to the line. It’s possible that if the middle is clogged up and they are speedy – they could bounce it outside. But that’s a risky move if your caught.

    What I would choose as the extra factor is a back that can catch the ball at full speed. If Miller can do that, sign him.

    Regarding Polk, I really like his tape. I am concerned about his dicipline in maintaining weight and stamina. He blew up in weight before the Senior Bowl and was not a factor in the game. So if he can maintain his college form, I would like him also.

    Both these players would be great value picks in the third round, and okay picks in the second.

  10. AlaskaHawk

    I also value a back that doesn’t fumble. All the defense is taught to rip at the ball, and Polk has shown he can protect the ball.

  11. AlaskaHawk

    Oops sorry, I meant Miller has shown he can protect the ball and won’t fumble.

  12. Matthew Baldwin

    Nice write up, Kip.

    I’d love L Miller at 43. We need a home run hitter, some explosion on O, a touchdown maker. He seems a great fit for the ZBS; one cut and gone.

    My concern is that he seems soft. I know you said he runs hard but I just don’t see it. Despite that, he’s a great value at 43.

    Gut feeling: T Richardson falls to 12 and PC runs to the podium.

  13. Jacob Stevens

    Awesome writeup. I’ve become a big fan of Miller. Myopically. I feel the same way about Wilson. Very well written, and I thank you very much for the candid exploration about being humbled by results after taking a stance on prospects. We can all relate to that, but sometimes we need to get it from someone else to really understand it. So thanks.

  14. Hawkfin

    I also agree with the writeup! I like Miller a lot.
    I like the point that was said “It will feel like another 1st round pick” if we got Miller in the 2nd. I agree with that. I think he would be a steel there.
    There is also some good wides that would feel like a 1st rounder also, but Miller would be a good pick there if the right LB or DE or WR is not taken instead.

    I like him for an option with our 2nd rounder.

    On my personal board, he’s my #3 RB with a drop after him. Martin is ahead of him I think, but it’s still somewhat close.

    I also like the speed type back and I think that is a bit of a issue on our team. I don’t think Forsett ever offered true speed and break away ability nor was he ever a top rated talent at RB. Forsett was just a solid player, but nothing like a Miller would bring us.
    I think we could use some speed at RB #2 and I like this kid for that. Plus, he’s a possible future RB for us as I think he could be a #1 also.

    My one concern with him in my personal view was his side to side lateral movement. Seems like he’s more of a straight line runner. Not real shifty maybe, but maybe that’s because he was going so fast full steam ahead. Not sure. But, I didn’t see a lot of quick cuts to the side. But, he was great doing cut backs and everything else looked good to me.

  15. AlaskaHawk

    Forsett was our number one back for a couple years. I think he was averaging around 5 yards per carry and was better than the other backs we had. Something just happened to him last year, and he never got back into his old form. I guess what I’m trying to say is that at his prime he was a good running back and we would have been happy to have him. Please stop with the comparisons, every back will get older and retire.

  16. Hawkfin

    My post wasn’t about Forsett so what’s you’re point?
    I really don’t care about Forsett or to debate it.
    The point was not about Forsett, it was about Miller and what he brings to the team.

    But, in my view (Which is allowed you know) Forsett was never a top talent in the NFL playing on a bad team with no good RB’s. But, the point was not about that.
    The point I said was he doesn’t have great speed, AND we could use better speed now.

    Please stop trying to pick apart my posts. It’s getting old and childish.

    If you don’t like what I have to say then don’t read it and don’t respond to it.
    I have the right to my views just like you do. I don’t need you to take 1 sentence out of my post and claim I’m “comparing Forset to Miller”. I never did that.

    Comparisons are made all the time anyway so get over it and grow up.

  17. AlaskaHawk

    I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. I didn’t mean to. I have a right to my views also.
    I happen to like Miller.

  18. Hawkfin

    Appology accepted.

    I do try and respect you’re views and others here even if I don’t agree. I never try and attack a person here, even though I’ve attacked the player. I guess some people get upset that a player is attacked also. But, it’s really just meant to be my viewpoint on the subject and likes and dislikes.

    I have made comparisons in the past, but that is hard for me not to do. I think even the Pro’s, Media, Scouts do it. Everybody likes to use an example to try and show a point.

    But, I didn’t feel that was the case here and rather attacked. Sorry if I misunderstood you and you’re intentions also.

    I use other chat boards for F.F./Sports/Seahawks/etc. and I’ve just never had my posts challenged so much, argued, debated, and picked apart and what I feel taken out of context at times as much as here. So my fuse has probably gotten a little shorter then it should be. I’m sorry for that.

    Anyway, GO HAWKS!
    Can’t wait for the draft. I’m jacked!

  19. shams

    Man, I’m so jacked! Only one week to go!

  20. plyka

    I really can’t believe that Doug Martin and Lamar Miller are talked about in the same breath. Watching their tapes, I believe that Miller is the far superior prospect. I’d bet on Miller, not on Martin.

  21. Misfit74

    Miller would be a sweet #2 RB for the Hawks.

  22. Jake

    Late to the party I know… I had to go to D.C. for the Cherry Blossoms (which were mostly on the ground – damn you global warming!)…

    Anyway, I agree 100% with plyka – I have no idea what the media is talking about with Miller and Martin. Martin is slow and not very elusive.

    I know some people don’t like comparisons, but Lynch works very well in this case. Martin is similarly sized, plays a similar style. Problem is, Lynch is faster and a WHOLE lot shiftier – so Martin’s not good enough to be considered a future replacement.

    Miller on the other hand is explosive, has good size, insane lateral agility, and only has one flaw – he hasn’t been used to pass block/catch passes. He’s going to be a star in the mold of Jamaal Charles. Honesly, find a top-rated RB who flopped out of “the U”.

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