Miller's Draft Value Murky

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Last updated: 12/10/2013 8:34 PM
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Football
Miller's Draft Value Murky
By Rob Ogden

Probably all of Columbus — maybe selfishly — believes quarterback Braxton Miller would be better served returning for his senior season at Ohio State than declaring for the NFL draft at then end of the year. There's at least two NFL draft experts that can be added to that list, as well.

"I certainly think that he should stay," said Rob Rang, NFL draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, The Sports Xchange and CBSSports.com . "The skill set is undeniable: size, arm strength, athletic ability. But at the same time I see a better athlete than an NFL-style quarterback at this point."

Dane Brugler, also of NFLDraftScout.com, and an Ohio native, agreed.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Dan Harker

"No question, at least for me, Braxton Miller would be well-served to return to Columbus for one more season before turning pro," Brugler said.

Miller is in the midst of by far the best year of his career, with a completion percentage above 63 and 32 total touchdowns despite missing nearly all of three games.

Yet questions remains about his passing ability and NFL potential.

His athletic ability has never been in question, but his accuracy, ball placement and pocket presence — all necessary strengths for an NFL starting quarterback — must improve, the two said.

"If he was to come out at this point, he might be drafted on day two," Rang said. "But at the same time, I believe that the team that drafted him would view him essentially as Terrelle Pryor — as a guy who needs significant refining before they can count on him being a starter."

Pryor was taken in the third round of the supplemental draft in 2011, has played in 12 games for the Oakland Raiders and has a career completion percentage of 57.1.

In his third and final season at Ohio State, Pryor completed 65 percent of his throws for 2,772 yards and 27 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.

Miller's numbers, in fewer games albeit, aren't even on par with what Pryor's were. But his coach believes Miller does have what it takes to play at the next level.

"He has a skillset to be a pro quarterback, there is no doubt in my mind," Urban Meyer said Nov. 25. "I don't believe he's ready yet, but I certainly get asked that question, can Braxton Miller be an NFL quarterback, absolutely, he can. No doubt in my mind because he continues to develop."

If Miller does come out, Rang said teams would have to wait while that development continues to occur.

"He's shown improvement over his career but at the same time it would take a team with an awful lot of patience," he said. "It's a little bit of a misnomer. People think that these quarterbacks are given time to develop, but they really aren't. They aren't given many reps during the workweek. It would be a quick way to limit his upside because he's going to have so much less opportunity to hone his skills."

Miller was recently ranked by Scouts Inc. as the 12th-best draft eligible player at his position — one spot behind Clemson's Tajh Boyd, who Miller will square off against in the Orange Bowl Jan. 3.

In both the 2013 and 2012 drafts, only 11 quarterbacks were selected. In 2011, Alabama's Greg McElroy — the 12th and final quarterback off the board — was taken in the seventh round.

Miller could rise in the rankings if some of his fellow underclassmen decide to return to school, as Oregon's Marcus Mariota did earlier this month.

"That's one of the things that's going to impact a lot of these underclassmen considering coming out early, how many of them do come out," Rang said. "That could potentially push up a player like Miller."

Running quarterbacks have made a comeback in the NFL as of late, but the bottom line is to succeed as a professional quarterback, you have to be a proficient passer.

"Miller has the arm and the athleticism, but he still needs to learn how to best use both of those tools," Brugler said. "His accuracy and touch waver over the course of games and he needs to consistently use his improved mechanics to take his accuracy as a passer to the next level. Miller’s anticipation isn’t quite there yet and another season of reading defenses and adding experience will help him."

Miller, a leading Heisman trophy candidate entering the season, likely could have racked up more gaudy numbers if not for a sprained knee that sidelined him for three weeks.

Because of the nature in which he plays, Miller has had quite a few injury scares during his three years at Ohio State, but Rang said that doesn't play much of a factor in his ranking.

"Anytime you have a quarterback like him who relies so much on his athletic ability in terms of running, you're always going to have some concerns about durability," he said. "The fact that's he always been knocked up, it's a little bit of a red flag but I don't think in the grand scheme of things his injury history is going to be nearly as much of a factor as the fact that he remains a very raw passer. When his first read is taken away he still has a tendency to tuck the ball and run."

Underclassmen have until mid January to declare for the draft. Prior to that, they can submit paperwork to the league's advisory committee which gives players an idea of where they might be selected.

At this point, Miller hasn't given any indication.

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