The Houston Texans have selected one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's NFL Draft class, taking Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller with the No. 85 overall pick in the third round. Miller made his name as a quarterback for the first three years of his college career before a shoulder injury forced him to switch positions.
Miller was a celebrated five-star recruit out of Dayton and earned the starting quarterback role a few games into his freshman year at Ohio State in 2011. In three years, he achieved a lot of success, winning the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, his college career got derailed by injuries. Miller suffered a shoulder injury in the 2014 Orange Bowl that required surgery, and he re-injured it during preseason practices, wiping out his entire senior year.
Due to the injury, Miller was granted a medical redshirt in 2014 and returned for a fifth season in Columbus. Concerned that his shoulder wouldn't be fully rehabbed by the season, Miller started secretly doing receiver drills to try his hands at a new position -- to which he would officially move in the spring, and play the rest of his college career outside of a handful of snaps in the Wildcat.
Miller morphed into a dynamic playmaking weapon at wideout. He finished the 2015 season with 25 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns, averaging a healthy 13.6 yards per catch. Miller was also an asset in the running game, recording 43 rushes for 261 yards and an additional touchdown.
As a receiver, Miller has shown good quickness and acceleration, relying on his speed to blow past defenders in the slot. His route-running is decent but the lack of experience shows, so Miller could have a hard time against technical defensive backs at the pro level. The Texans will like his physicality -- he's not afraid of contact, willing to fight for extra yards and puts in the effort on blocking.
When Miller has the ball in his hands, he's nearly unstoppable in the open field. Case in point:.
September 8, 2015
There's a lot of promise with Miller but also a lot of uncertainty. With just one year of wideout experience under his belt, he'll have a much steeper learning curve than his fellow peers. He'll undoubtedly be treated as a long-term project and fans should exercise some patience with the 23-year-old.
Ohio State blog Land Grant Holy Land thinks Miller has the upside of Hines Ward, although Antwaan Randle El isn't a bad career arc, either:
Will Miller ever become a polished wide receiver? That question remains unclear, but I would be hard pressed to believe that Miller won't become at least a serviceable playmaker at the next level. Like Randle El, players with this much talent are hard to come by, and coaches will do whatever it takes to get them the ball. It is up to Miller to prove if he can be the focal point of an offense, or merely another weapon. All in all, not two bad options.
There are reasons to be skeptical of Miller's NFL future, but if he puts in the hard work learning the position and the Texans don't rush his development too fast, he should grow into a nifty playmaker at the next level.
Houston has invested heavily in its offense during the offseason, signing Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and Jeff Allen, then drafting Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller and Notre Dame center Nick Martin. Fuller is a speedy and explosive receiver with some developmental talent to work with and the Texans doubled down with more of the same by grabbing Miller.
With DeAndre Hopkins already at the top of the league among receivers, and a young player like Jaelen Strong to develop, the Texans are quickly accruing some of the most intriguing talent at receiver.
* * *