I have been keeping an eye on Von Miller for well over two years now. Early last season, Miller's production had dropped a bit, and he was then projected as an early-to-middle second round pick.
An ideal spot, I surmised at the time, for the 49ers to draft a pass rusher.
Miller’s breakout season with Texas A&M came in 2009 when he led the nation in sacks with 17. He also recorded 21 tackles for loss and was named first-team All Big-12 at defensive end.
Miller became a 3-4 outside linebacker under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter the following season. The transition combined with an ankle injury slowed Miller a bit. However, he finished the season with 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss while claiming the Butkus Award.
The chances of grabbing Miller in the second round are now slim to none.
With his impressive finish to last season, as well as his stellar performance at the Senior Bowl, Miller has raised a few eyebrows and is now projected to go as high as the top five.
Draft stock has a way of bouncing all over the place before the actual draft, however. I would imagine Miller’s stock will dip a bit and then rise again at the NFL Combine.
But if he was available when the 49ers pick seventh, should they grab him?
Von Miller is everything the 49ers want and need in a player. He would immediately improve the pass rush, which in turn would improve the secondary—although I still very much advocate the team using an early pick on a corner.
At 6'2" and 237 pounds, Miller isn’t the biggest linebacker, but he is fast with a non-stop motor, extremely quick off the edge and is able to use his long arms extremely well to shed blockers.
When Sacramento Bee writer Matt Barrows recently asked an NFL scout whether Von Miller would be a liability in the running game because of his size, he was told that Miller is in fact very solid in the running game.
But what about his coverage skills?
“What we’ve seen here is that he can drop into coverage,” said ESPN’s Todd McShay told Pro Football Talk, indicating that Miller’s return for his senior season to polish his game paid off. “He’s an absolute playmaker on every passing down.”
When told early in his career that he played like Derrick Thomas, Miller went to work to find out exactly what that meant. He researched the late great Kansas City Chief defensive end/linebacker by reading everything he could find on him, as well as viewing every bit of footage he could get his hands on.
"I could never, ever play like Derrick Thomas. But he played with a fanatical effort, a relentless effort, and that's what I try to do—to play with that same attitude," Miller told Press-Register writer Mike Herndon.
Miller’s modesty is refreshing; Derrick Thomas was a special player and one of a kind.
But according to some, Miller may just be on track to be a bit special himself.
“Two words: Defies. Gravity. Bends parallel to the ground. This guy comes off the edge and it’s scary how quick he gets to the quarterback. In my notes from the season, I had the word ‘wow’ written (about Miller) more than any other player,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock told Pro Football Talk.
Sounds like something the 49ers have been missing for a long, long time.