After the junior season he had with the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, it wasn't a surprise to many that cornerback Dee Milliner declared for the 2013 NFL Draft. The 6'1, 198-pound corner from Millbrook, Ala. has the size, speed, ball-hawking skills and quickness that makes NFL scouts salivate. He's the kind of cover guy that a team might take not because of need, but rather the scary thought of passing him by.
In 2012, Milliner racked up 54 tackles (four of those coming for a loss), 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two interceptions for the Crimson Tide. An unanimous addition to both the All-SEC's First Team as well as the first-team All-American roster, Milliner had 22 passes defensed, which was the most in the SEC. He also ranks as SB Nation's top cornerback prospect and the sixth-best player available in the draft.
- CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler says Milliner excels in close-quarters coverage, beginning by disrupting and knocking wide receivers off their intended routes.
- Brugler also notes that Milliner has ideal size for a professional cornerback, and that his reaction time and on-field awareness helps him locate passes as they are coming.
- His physicality -- whether it be with receivers around the line of scrimmage or in the open field, or in going at running backs -- is consistent, Brugler says. He can also shed blocks in the process of pursuing a ball carrier.
In a video from draftbreakdown.com, here is a sampling of Milliner in the SEC Championship Game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Milliner's instincts, open-field tackling ability and bump-and-run coverage, among other traits, are on display here:
- In NFL.com's prospect overview, Milliner's occasional habit of throwing himself at a ball carrier as a substitute to solid form-tackling is a potential weakness at the next level.
- Did not backpedal in coverage at Alabama, writes NFL.com; a skill he will likely need to pick up and learn, as NFL quarterbacks will attack him until Milliner proves he isn't an average rookie.
- Brugler also notes that Milliner only spent one season as a starter with Alabama, and though it was a good one, it isn't that big of a body of work heading into the NFL.
- Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said this of Milliner in an article from AL.com:
Dee is another one of those kids that I was fortunate enough to be able to help recruit, and I got to know his family well. His father played for my father in high school, and Dee has developed. He came early in the spring one year, he and John Fulton, and we knew right away both were going to be good players.
- CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler says 2012 was Milliner's big year with the Crimson Tide:
Milliner's breakout season came in 2012, as he was a first-team All-American and unanimous All-SEC first-team pick after finishing the regular season tied for third nationally with 18 passes defensed. He totaled 54 tackles, four for loss and 22 pass break-ups by the time Alabama wrapped up the national title.
- Milliner learned alongside the likes of Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie while at Alabama.
- For Milliner's complete numbers during his career at Alabama, visit cfbstats.com right here.
2013 NFL Combine performance:
If there were doubts about Milliner's athleticism, he certainly silenced them with an extremely impressive 4.31 40-yard dash time that made him one of the fastest of the entire 333 prospects in attendance. While he struggled with some of the positional drills, including ones that involved making a play on the ball, it's understandable considering he attended the combine with a torn labrum.
While surgery will withhold Milliner from participating in the Alabama Pro Day, there's nothing left for the top cornerback to prove and he seemingly solidified his status as a top 10 selection.
- You can find Milliner on Twitter @dmilli28.
Here's a sampling:
Preciate all the support and love everyone gave me at #bama ....hopefully I will give yall some to cheer and be proud of in the#NFL#RTR— Dee Milliner (@dmilli28) January 11, 2013
- Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network thinks Milliner is the top cornerback in the draft, though not necessarily a top ten-level pick:
I didn't view Geno Smith or Dee Milliner as top 10 talents but the top QB and CB always get pushed up the board. Happens every year— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 15, 2013
- Milliner, probably like every other cornerback in the NFL, pretty much thinks Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson can't be stopped, but he'll try.
Comparisons for Milliner include San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, both known for their physicality, ability to make plays on the ball and hard-nosed, in-the-jersey style of coverage. He's the sort of prospect that any team could potentially use, especially due to the aerial age of the NFL and the benefit of having a cornerback who can adjust to situations on the fly.
The Cleveland Browns defense isn't far from being a dominant stop unit. The team could use a big time pass rusher, but the value with Dee Milliner is too much to pass on. A tandem of Milliner and Joe Haden would be scary for opposing offenses.