When projecting where Ohio State will stand at the start of the 2014 season, one big question sticks out: will Braxton Miller be back for his senior season or he will he enter the 2014 NFL Draft?
It’s something that’s been on the mind of most Buckeye fans since the standout signal caller showed significant improvement over the course of his junior season -- and for some, longer than that. But while Miller has the physical tools -- particularly when it comes to running the football -- that make him a college coach’s dream, at least one NFL scout is skeptical of his current prospects as an NFL player.
Whereas last year the success of the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick and the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III made spread system quarterbacks all the rage in the offseason, that sentiment has seemingly settled down as the 2013 season nears its end, which appears to have negatively altered how scouts view Miller as a pro prospect.
“He would’ve been a lot better of a pro prospect if we were going into last year’s draft where you had the Kaepernicks and the Griffins who were running all over the place and people thinking that that would be successful,” said one NFL scout, who spoke with BuckeyeSports.com on the condition on anonymity. “The problem is this year, that’s kind of been found out a little bit, so I think teams are a little more skeptical to go in that direction with a player where (running’s) his primary skill.”
In addition to rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns for the second consecutive year, Miller completed 63.2 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,860 yards and 22 touchdowns in what was essentially a 10-game season for the Huber Heights, Ohio native. But while an early season knee injury wasn’t enough to prevent Miller from improving all of his stats aside from passing yards or winning his second straight Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, questions still persist over how his skill set would translate to the next level.
As the NFL scout explained, he’s not necessarily similar to another Urban Meyer-coached quarterback, Tim Tebow -- whose three-year professional career came to an unceremonious end after being selected in the first round of the 2010 draft -- but Miller’s inconsistency as a passer has become a cause for concern in regards to his ability as a profesional player.
“He’s not a project. He’s not a Tim Tebow-type player. But at the same time when you look at the throwing talent of other guys that are going to be in this class, he’s not in the top tier either,” the scout said. “He’s got functional arm strength. He’s probably in the middle 50 percent of arm strength that you see in the NFL.
“His accuracy has a lot of room for improvement, and that’s not even what’s his pure completion percentage -- where is he putting the ball? Is it a place where a guy can get more yards? -- all the little things that go in right there.”
Given all of the questions that surround Miller as a pro player -- and what is expected to be a deeper than usual quarterback class in 2014 -- the scout is skeptical that the two-time reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year could be a first round pick in next May’s draft. After that, however, his raw talent could win out, and potentially push him into the third or even second round of the selection show.
“Right now if he came out, he’s definitely not in that first day mix,” said the scout. “And then it would all be about how he tested and interviewed and all that on whether he could sneak in to those next couple of rounds. I definitely think he’d be in that second tier of quarterbacks that you’d start looking at.”
The good news for Miller, however, is that he has a year of college eligibility remaining to improve, should he choose to use it. External factors of course could always come into play when it comes to Miller making his decision, but as far as his long-term success as a pro player, the scout tends agree with Meyer that one more year in college could be best for all involved.
“I know he’s got a child and some other things going on. I don’t know if he’s just outgrown Columbus or what, but I do know that it’s at the top of the mind with both the kid and the people around there,” the scout said of Miller potentially declaring for the draft. “I’m not giving advice either way, but I would hope that they see the big picture with everything that’s going on and he makes the right decision.”
The deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2014 NFL Draft is Jan. 15, 2014.