First Round: Ninth Pick
In a draft class that appears unusually thin in terms of elite talent, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner appears to be one of the few with talent warranting top-ten consideration in any draft.
A big, versatile defensive back, Milliner impresses evaluators with a blend of physical gifts and intangibles. Following a breakout junior season he appears on his way to becoming an early selection.
Does he have the ability to be a shutdown cornerback? Or is he being overvalued due to a thin class at the top?
|+ Ideal size to match up vs. NFL receivers||- Misses too many open field tackles, dropping his head and lunging|
|+ Excellent closing speed||- Suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that requires surgery prior to April's draft|
|+ Impressive instincts, displays awareness and recognition skills||- Questionable hands, relatively few interceptions|
|+ Capable of holding his own in man or zone, no schematic limitations|
Among the physical specimens in this defensive back class, Dee Milliner possesses a desirable blend of size and athleticism.
Officially measuring in at 5’11 7/8” and 201 pounds at the combine, he has the size to match up against bigger receivers. Likewise, after blazing the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, Milliner made it clear that he can run with anyone.
Considering his size, he is a very impressive athlete that dazzled NFL personnel in Indianapolis with a tremendous workout. A 36” vertical jump and 6.95 time in the three-cone drill stood out in the defensive back group.
A former five-star recruit for the Tide, Dee Milliner developed into a unanimous All-American as a junior. The four-time SEC defensive player of the week in 2012 made his impact felt both on the field and in the locker room, where he was able to lead by example.
At some point last season, Milliner suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that makes it difficult to perform a full workout for NFL teams prior to April’s draft. Doctors insist that he should be 100 percent by training camp in July.
Nick Saban operates a demanding defensive scheme at Alabama, asking his cornerbacks to do more than most NFL teams will. During his time in Tuscaloosa, Milliner earned snaps playing in man and zone coverage (both press and off), blitzing, on special teams and even rotating to safety at times.
Though some traits such as backpedaling were not heavily emphasized by the coaching staff, he received valuable experience in a variety of roles.
Playing the Ball
Dee Milliner was among the most productive cornerbacks in college football in 2012, tied for first in the nation with 22 passes defended.
He attacks the ball in the air, breaking up more passes than any college defensive back I have watched. Milliner closes quickly with tremendous speed and does a remarkable job of timing, baiting quarterbacks and making plays at the perfect moment.
Hands will be a question for some as Milliner recorded only six interceptions during his time at Alabama despite numerous opportunities.
Against the Run
Dee Milliner is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to defending the run.
On one hand, he displays exceptional instincts and recognition skills, quickly diagnosing the play. He does a nice job of locating the ball and working himself into a position to make a stop utilizing good pursuit angles.
However, Milliner is not a great tackler in the open field. He may be able to win the leverage battle against blockers at the point of attack, but misses too many tackles by dropping his head and lunging.
Milliner possesses the size and speed necessary to match up against today’s elite athletes at wide receiver. While not always quick in his backpedal, he shows the speed to recover and demonstrates impressive fluidity in his hips.
He may give receivers too much room underneath at times, but is rarely beaten for big yardage. Additionally, he displayed good physicality at times, using his hands to disrupt the timing of routes.
During his time at Alabama, Dee Milliner showcased impressive zone awareness, handling responsibilities well. Excellent closing speed and discipline allow him to cover large areas. He displays the range and timing to excel in a zone coverage schemes at the next level.
Though experienced in press-man and zone coverage, Dee Milliner still has room to grow in terms of technique. He occasionally plays too high and is sluggish in his backpedal. The team that drafts him will likely emphasize improvement in that area.
Despite any missteps, however, he has the kind of size and speed that, at times, can make up for less than perfect technique. Additionally, for a big corner, Milliner displays excellent hips and fluidity to turn and run with any receiver.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
The best defensive back in this class, Dee Milliner thrived in both man and zone coverage at Alabama. Due to size, athleticism and experience, his game transcends scheme. He has the ability to be a team’s shutdown corner, but may make a smoother transition to team that plays primarily zone.
Also worth noting, Milliner appears to be an effective blitzer capable of closing gaps in a hurry. Creative defensive coordinators will be able to use his diverse skill set.
Draft Projection: Top 10