Alabama's Dee Milliner solidified his status as the top cornerback at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Entering the combine, there was some concern regarding Milliner's health, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com pointed out last week:
Alabama’s Dee Milliner, projected to be top CB in draft, will undergo surgery on torn labrum in rt shoulder after combine. More at ESPN. com— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 21, 2013
The obvious worry for teams was the potential impact this would have on Milliner's performance in Indianapolis.
His collegiate career was undeniably impressive and filled with consistency. But 2012 was simply on another level.
He logged 54 tackles and defended 22 passes last season. The corner easily stood out on Nick Saban's defense, which once again was the best in college football and finished with another BCS national championship victory.
In the two biggest games of the season—Georgia (SEC title game) and Notre Dame (BCS title game)—Milliner collected seven tackles and defended four passes.
The junior cornerback's continued lockdown coverage skills and reliable tackling ability bolted him up the draft boards as 2012-13 progressed. And as for the health issue, NFL.com's Albert Breer reported the following last week:
As ESPN reported, Bama CB Dee Milliner has a torn labrum. I'm told he suffered the injury in-season, played thru it during Tide's title run.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 21, 2013
In addition to his consistent dependability and production, Milliner also evidently has toughness, something that all old-school NFL players would appreciate.
The 40-Yard Dash
Milliner's first 40-yard dash came in unofficially at 4.31 seconds, which was tied for the second fastest of any defensive back at the combine.
When the official results came in, Milliner still clocked at 4.37 seconds and was .01 off the fastest 40 for all defensive backs (Darius Slay, 4.36).
In a passing league, this type of straight-line speed and acceleration is uncanny. Milliner displayed throughout his college days that he possesses the man and zone coverage skill set, but being capable of matching up with the fastest of receivers is quite the added bonus.
This top gear alone from Milliner will allow a defense to present more man coverage and blitz in front. The end results are increased quarterback pressure and generated turnovers.
No, Milliner didn't completely tear up the turf and amaze everyone during the position drills. But as Will Brinson of CBS Sports tweeted:
We could blame Dee Milliner's inability to catch today on the little things. Or, you know, a TORN LABRUM.— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 26, 2013
Milliner was also interviewed by Deion Sanders about his 40-time and on-field workouts.
We also must combine Milliner's health with his lack of generating turnovers to begin with. The guy is not an interception machine. He blankets in coverage and prevents the target from getting an opportunity to make a play.
The dropped passes at the combine displayed a definite area need of improvement, because snagging picks when given a chance in pro football is a distinct separation between the average, good and great players.
That said, Milliner still brings the quickness, technical footwork and field-awareness vision to shield one-on-one or in zone. Turning breakups into interceptions will just be the next step in the process of his development.
Leaps and Bounds
Milliner hit 36 inches on the vertical, but given his size at 6'0", 201 pounds, that's rather solid. Cornerbacks also need not have incredible leaping ability compared to safeties, as edge cover players will break on routes more often than trying to out-jump receivers.
At the same time, Milliner partially displayed his vertical strength in the national championship game.
It always helps to reach air, so Milliner will only continue to improve here. As for the broad jump, he put up another solid number of 122 inches. This explosiveness makes Milliner reliable for press coverage and helping with perimeter run support.
We know he can tackle, but the capability to quickly accumulate power and jam receivers at the line comes from having a good vertical and broad jump. Factor in his size and Milliner will transition smoothly.
Where will Dee Milliner get drafted?
Cone Drill and Shuttle
Here, Milliner worked to 6.95 seconds on the three-cone drill and hit 4.32 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle. Obviously there aren't extensively supreme numbers, but we have to again remember the situation.
He's clearly not 100 percent, because we saw Milliner's full capabilities on the field for Alabama.
This is just a minuscule measuring stick to get an idea of where Milliner must develop. One thing he brings to the utmost level are instincts and reliability. In addition, game speed of a player is always faster than practice or this kind of workout.
There's just no substitute for the adrenaline rush and emotions that go into putting the pads on. Milliner still has the quickness to take away slants, quick outs and react fast against screens and the run. If anything, his anticipation combined with athletic prowess will pay dividends on the field
Milliner is clearly a top 10 selection and could sneak into the top five as well. The Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns each need a stud cornerback and Milliner is not a risk.
His discipline at the position in coverage remains impeccable, and a defense can always use a cornerback with the lateral agility to help against the run. Milliner's top gear, acceleration and technique are quite appealing, so now it's just a matter of creating turnovers.
If you want the draft's top CB, Dee Milliner, you'll probably have to trade ahead of Detroit at 5 to get him.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 25, 2013
He has been the top secondary prospect since before the 2012 SEC championship game. Factor that amount of pressure, while also playing hurt, and making another BCS title run is downright impressive.
All that's left is to simply get it done on the professional gridiron.