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Braxton Miller; supreme athlete but can he make it in the NFL?

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Former Ohio State Buckeye Braxton Miller is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's loaded draft class. Miller is an explosive athlete with a huge amount of potential but is extremely raw at his position, having switched from quarterback to wide receiver in his senior year despite previously winning two Big Ten offensive player of the year awards as a passer. 

His combine and pro day showings were exceptional and only enhanced his draft stock, posting combine leading results in three events and running a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. At 6'1 and 201lbs, Miller has the size and athletic ability to be an electric playmaker in the NFL, and his elusiveness in possession and versatility make him an attractive target for many receiver-needy teams. 

His college career began as a quarterback and he excelled as the leader of the Buckeyes, throwing for over 5000 yards and 50 touchdowns in his first three seasons, whilst also running in 32 touchdowns to go with over 3000 rushing yards.


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Miller was a true dual threat quarterback with explosive playmaking ability and only injuries brought an end to his time at the position. 

He missed the 2014 season with a shoulder injury in which the Buckeyes won a national championship on the back of stellar quarterback play from JT Barrett and Cardale Jones. Instead of transferring programs to remain at the position, Miller unselfishly decided to try his hand at receiver. He trimmed himself down and flourished as a dual threat at a second position. 

Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer often employed miller at the 'h-back' position which allowed him to catch passes and cause havoc on jet sweep moves and carries in the run game. Miller had over 600 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, proving a valuable piece in the offense and putting up multiple highlight reel plays with his elusive running and ability to make yards after the catch. 

Of course, Miller also retains the ability to throw the ball at a high level and his versatile range of skills will make a lot of teams look hard at him as a guy who can operate in many systems and produce eye-catching plays. With the ability to be a slot receiver, h-back, wildcat quarterback, return punts and pull of reverses and jet sweeps, Miller is a unique prospect. 

He is like a hybrid of Percy Harvin, Julian Edelman, and Mohamed Sanu but with more athletic ability and far superior arm talent. The more creative minds in the league will be itching at the chance to draft him.

Although he does have much to learn at the position, Miller made excellent progress with his route running and pass catching last season. He possesses rare natural quickness and acceleration that allows him to create separation on defensive backs whilst having outstanding agility and change of direction.

His ball skills are instinctively brilliant and he has good hands, rarely dropping balls. Miller also displayed the ability to go up and get contested balls on a regular basis last season, a huge bonus in the NFL where he will be much more closely tracked by stronger and faster defenders.

However, his inexperience at the receiver position does bring with it concerns for teams. Whilst he produced promising flashes in his first season playing wideout he is very unproven and has much to learn about playing the position. There is very little chance he will be ready to play straight away and some teams will look to draft more polished and NFL ready prospects rather than a developmental one like Miller.

His ball security needs work, his route running will certainly need to be improved and he will need to be taught to block more effectively before he is ready to be a full-time WR2. Miller also does not possess elite size for a receiver and as such may be limited to playing in the slot as far as pass catching goes. But, the ceiling for Miller is enormous due to his outstanding athleticism and under the right tutelage he could develop into a productive player in the league.

The question for GM's and coaches is whether spending a second or third round pick on a player who will take some time to develop is worth their while. His ceiling could be better than Julian Edelman but his floor may be a less productive version of Harvin or Sanu, only being used in niche sets and on various sweeps and trick plays. 

Miller's ability to respond to coaching and learn fast about the nuances of the position will ultimately determine which of the two outcomes will be realised. 

As far as the draft and potential team fits goes, it would seem that Miller will likely be a second or third-round pick, with elite receiver talent ahead of him it is not widely thought that he will break into the first round. His skill set suits an up-tempo, west coast offense such as that of the Eagles but there may be more needy teams at the position that decide to take a risk on him.

The 49ers would be an interesting fit with Chip Kelly as their new head coach, there is no man more creative in the league as far as offense goes, and Miller could be utilised to great effect there especially if Colin Kaepernick remains with the team. Miller also screams out as a player that Bill Belichick would love to have in his ranks and being around Brady, Edelman and Gronk would inevitably aid his development. 

Needier teams at the position include the Bengals and Bills who have both had players move on in free agency and in retirement. These teams both have experience fielding dynamic receivers of Miller's mould in Mohamed Sanu and Percy Harvin and both have holes to fill at receiver which would allow Miller some early playing time. 

Only time will tell how Miller's career turns out but his unique natural athletic ability certainly gives him a shot at becoming a pro bowl level player in the NFL.

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Buffalo Bills
Chip Kelly
Cincinnati Bengals
San Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia Eagles
NFL Draft

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