Kolton Miller was a star at the combine, but is it enough to propel him into the first round?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series is back! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top prospects at each position. This week, we dive into the offensive line position. Today, we’ll take a look at tackle Kolton Miller out of UCLA.
During his time at UCLA, Kolton Miller saw action the last three seasons after being redshirted his freshman year. In his first two seasons, he saw action in 10 games at right tackle before being moved over to the left side his redshirt junior year in 2017.
At left tackle, Miller started all 13 games for UCLA and was responsible for protecting quarterback Josh Rosen’s blindside, and he did a pretty good job of it. For his efforts, Miller was named to the second-team All-Pac-12 by the coaches.
Miller’s greatest asset is his size and athletic ability. What jumps off the page about Miller is just how big he is. Even for an offensive tackle, measuring at almost 6‘9 is extremely tall for the position. But even at his height and weight, Miller’s on-field workouts were impressive.
As you can see in the chart, Miller was in the top 90th percentile in a number of workouts. His 4.95 40 time was third among all linemen in this year’s combine, and his broad jump actually set the record for linemen. Some scouts take combine measurements with more validity than others in terms of gameplay, but there is no denying that Miller is a physical specimen.
When looking at Miller’s game tape, scouts are seeing what they can do with him instead of what he can do right now. But one of the things he does really well is run blocking. The key to run blocking is getting the pad level down to gain leverage on the defender. Even at 6‘9, Miller does a good job at winning at the point of attack.
On this play, Miller (#77 lined up on the bottom of the line) does a great job of keeping his pad level low when shooting out of his stance. He gains the leverage needed against the defensive end and uses his strength to push him up the field and out of the play.
What impressed me most when watching Miller was his ability to get to the second level quickly and stick with his blocks.
A big guy shouldn’t be able to move this quickly out of a three-point stance. Miller shoots off the line and meets the linebacker that steps up to try and make a play. After making contact at about the 14-yard line, Miller uses his hands to keep engaged and drives the defender downfield and even off the screen. That is exactly what you want from an offensive lineman when they’re assigned to a defender at the second level.
Like stated before, some scouts are high on Miller based on plays like these. But his weaknesses are eye-opening and make you question Miller’s fit at the NFL level.
NFL scouts will be enamored by Miller’s size and athleticism, but watching his tape shows a lot of work still needed for him to be successful. He may be good against the run, but in pass blocking, Miller needs tons of work.
The most frustrating thing when watching Miller is his awful footwork when dropping into pass blocking. Too many times he moves his post-foot forward or inward instead of kicking out. This forces Miller to become off-balanced too often, and against speed rushers, he gets beat with regularity. In the play below we see Miller moving his foot up on the snap. He gets away with it on this play, but he’s not so lucky on others.
It’s one thing when a lineman has less than stellar footwork on occasion, but for Miller, it seems like every snap where he had to be in pass protection he was taking a false step.
UCLA OT Kolton Miller tested like an elite athlete, but the footwork tells a different story. As @VeteranScout noted before, post-foot false steps forward consistently, forcing him to retreat. pic.twitter.com/w987P47J0n— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 25, 2018
Miller also has a tendency to dip his head when going to initiate a block. On this play, he attempts to lunge at the defender instead of kicking out and using his hands to pass protect. While lunging he dips his head and bends at the waist, which puts him in an even worse position.
As a three-year player along the offensive line, you would expect Miller to have his fundamentals addressed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Whichever team drafts him will need to develop a lot of time to fix his footwork before throwing him out against NFL speed along the edge.
Every year a prospect comes out of the NFL Combine shooting up draft boards simply based on impressive workout numbers. Miller is that prospect this year.
Don’t get me wrong, Miller has enormous upside as a prospect. You can’t teach athleticism and that aspect of his profile along with his size is fantastic. I was pleasantly surprised with his domination in the run game. It’s tough for a guy at that size to keep his pad level low, but Miller does a fantastic job of throwing his hands and gaining leverage against the defense.
The footwork basics are very concerning to me. Too many times I saw Miller move his left foot forward instead of back. He got away with it later in the season, but against elite pass-rushers in the NFL, he’ll need to stay balanced with a wide frame to stay in front of them.
Most mock drafts have Miller as a late first-round pick. CBS Sports has him going 30th to the Vikings, SB Nation sends him to New England at 31, and the latest from NFL.com‘s Lance Zierlein has Miller going 16th to the Ravens. The first-round pickup of Miller seems high even considering NFL.com gave him a second or third round grade on his draft profile.
The Patriots and Eagles with the last two picks in the first round make the most sense if NFL teams really think he deserves to go that high. The Patriots second-round pick, number 43 overall, is where Miller ends up being taken. It gives the Pats a Nate Solder replacement but allows Miller to possibly sit and develop a bit more.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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