Ohio State Football: Can Braxton Miller Vault into 1st Round with Good Combine?

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2016

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 7: Braxton Miller #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs for a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 7, 2015 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ohio State defeated Virginia Tech 42-24. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In his first career game as a wide receiver, Braxton Miller showcased his otherworldly potential with a single spin move and a 40-yard dash to the end zone.

The Ohio State Buckeyes, who were making their 2015 season debut on the road against Virginia Tech, were clinging to a 21-17 lead late in the third quarter. Miller took a direct snap and cruised to a crowded perimeter with almost no room to work with, but a spin move for the ages freed him up at the Hokies' 40-yard line.

He turned on the jets from there, leaving everyone hoping to keep pace in the dust.

Miller's aiming to do the exact same thing this week in Indianapolis.

With the NFL Scouting Combine officially underway, Ohio State's former quarterback-turned-receiver will have the opportunity to showcase his ability to the 32 NFL teams ahead of this year's draft. And if he's impressive enough, he could play his way into first-round status.


Framing the Disappointing 2015 Season

Miller looked like a star in the making against the Hokies, amassing 140 total yards and two touchdowns in just eight touches. But in Ohio State's final 12 games of the season, Miller's numbers dipped dramatically, as he averaged just 38 total yards and 21.8 receiving yards per outing.

He was held to fewer than 20 receiving yards in seven of the Buckeyes' 13 games and averaged just four receiving yards in his last four collegiate games.

Those aren't the kind of numbers one would associate with a potential first-round wide receiver. After the season was over, Miller was asked if he was underutilized as a wideout in the Buckeyes offense.

"Yeah, I think so," Miller told Reese's Senior Bowl (h/t Connor Tapp of Bucknuts).

Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller
Ohio State wide receiver Braxton MillerJamie Sabau/Getty Images

Ohio State's offense was expected to be historically great in 2015. It returned seven key starters from its national title team, headlined by two championship-caliber quarterbacks in Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.

But the Buckeyes failed to establish an identity with a star-studded roster that included potential first-rounders Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Thomas. Much of that fell back on Ohio State's uncertainty at quarterback, as it bounced between Jones and Barrett before finally settling on the latter to close out the season.

That balancing act had a hugely negative impact on the Buckeyes' passing attack, and the chemistry between Miller and the rotation at quarterback never developed the way it should have.


Surging in the Offseason

For Miller to improve his draft stock, he needed to first have a good showing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The weeklong event gives guys such as Miller the opportunity to thrive in an NFL-like setting in front of a host of next-level scouts.

Miller did just that in late January, showing off his speed and surprisingly polished route-running ability against some pretty stout competition, per the Washington Redskins on Vine:

Miller was the most consistent and explosive playmaker at the Senior Bowl, and he was voted the top standout by NFL scouts in attendance.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller was in attendance, and he was very impressed with what he saw from the Ohio State star. He was so impressed, in fact, that he pegged Braxton Miller as the Cincinnati Bengals' first-round pick at No. 24 overall in his latest mock draft.

But as Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors pointed out, Braxton Miller is far from a first-round lock. Just two of the seven draft experts listed in Seger's article have him pegged as a top-31 pick.

That could change with a solid showing at the NFL combine. Miller has his sights set on Adidas' $1 million bounty, which will be given to any player who can break Chris Johnson's 40-yard dash record of 4.24 seconds.

He certainly has the speed to claim that bounty.

And just like he ran away from the Virginia Tech defense last September, he could dash 40 yards not only to a huge payday, but a selection from a team on the NFL draft's opening night.


David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.