With the first overall pick in the draft, teams typically go for need more than best player available. If a squad is picking first overall, there's likely a glaring hole on the roster.
Keeping that in mind, the best player on the board usually doesn't go with the first overall selection. Last year, Andrew Luck was the best player available and went first overall, but (despite being the best prospect available) players like Patrick Peterson and Eric Berry didn't go first overall in their respective years.
Making the case for those two at the top of their respective boards is an argument for another day, but this year's draft class has one true star at the top of the board.
Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is the best player available.
Prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, I had a very high grade on Milliner. His ability to play press man is impressive, but it's the way he always seems to find himself between the quarterback and the receiver that is most impressive.
Milliner's physicality doesn't go unnoticed; in an era where bigger corners like Richard Sherman and Lardarius Webb are dominating, Dee Milliner has the skills to become a top-flight defensive back in the league.
Compared to corners like Desmond Trufant, who is the second-best cornerback in this year's class, Milliner likes to play up on the line and get in a receiver's face. Trufant, on the other hand, tends to play off-man coverage.
Difference between CBs Dee Milliner and Desmond Trufant is physicality at LOS. Trufant gets abused on underneath routes and outside runs.— Eli Nachmany (@EliNachmany) March 1, 2013
Because Milliner typically likes to get in front of a receiver to undercut routes, my only concern was that the defensive back would get burned time and again in the NFL by fast wide receivers and strong-armed quarterbacks.
The combine put those fears to rest for me.
Milliner ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, a time bested by only four offensive players. Two (Tavon Austin and Ryan Swope) were slot receivers against whom Milliner wouldn't have to man-up, while one (Onterio McCalebb) was a third-down running back, and the other (Marquise Goodwin) doesn't even project out as a starter.
The second-fastest defensive player at the combine, Milliner isn't going to get burned in the NFL. He's technically sound enough to keep a good handle on whatever route a receiver is running, and he has the vertical speed to catch up if a wideout gets by him.
Unlike Trufant, Milliner is a factor in the run game and isn't afraid to come up and make hits. The NFL is moving towards more complete players at the cornerback position, and Milliner is the perfect fit there.
I like this defensive back much better on an island than in zone coverage, because I feel as though playing zone limits what he can do. Line him up on the other team's No. 1 and watch him shut things down.
With long arms and great deep speed, Milliner checks out when it comes to the measurables. Watching the game tape, evaluators will see a corner who is not going to get beat deep.
In a draft where no quarterback has emerged as even a surefire Top 10 selection, where both of the top-two teams are considering left tackles and where each defensive lineman has as many cons as they do pros (check out my article breaking down each of the top pass-rushers in the class here), Milliner is the best player available.
It may not even be that close.
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