COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Braxton Miller announced his intentions of moving from quarterback to wide receiver to SI.com's Pete Thamel on Thursday night, it sent shock waves through a college football world that was already having a hard time figuring out how anyone would defend Ohio State's offense in 2015.
Miller said of the shift: "This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that."
But for the Buckeyes' newest wideout, this position switch was less about the fits the OSU offense is going to cause opponents in the coming year and more about an NFL future that may not have existed without it.
"The position change is a great idea for Braxton's NFL future. He wasn't going to be drafted as a quarterback—the accuracy just isn't there," said Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Analyst Matt Miller. "But as an offensive weapon—receiver, returner, sometimes runner—he has upside."
While Miller proved to be one of the most dynamic players in all of college football in his three seasons as the Buckeyes' starting signal-caller from 2011 to 2013, scouts never viewed him as an NFL-caliber passer. And that was before his draft prospects took their most significant hit last August, when a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder ended his 2014 campaign before it even started.
With a three-man quarterback battle between himself, potential first-round pick Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett brewing, Miller's NFL hopes were only dimming as the 2015 season drew closer. But with his move to wide receiver, there is now a sudden sense of renewed optimism when it comes to Miller's potential as a pro prospect.
With so much still undetermined, Matt Miller said that it's too early to speculate on what type of draft grade the two-time Big Ten MVP could earn in the coming months. But the comparisons he drew were favorable. Expected to play the H-back position—which combines the abilities of a wide receiver and running back while lining up in the slot—in Urban Meyer's spread offense, Miller could best be used as a player without a truly defined role.
Because of that, Matt Miller likened him to Green Bay Packers wideout Randall Cobb, former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Hines Ward and another do-it-all player who starred under Meyer in his college career.
"Percy Harvin [is a] good reference given the offensive comparisons," the NFL draft analyst said. "Brad Smith might be more realistic, athletically."
Admittedly, there's a wide range among the production of Harvin (first-round pick in 2009), Cobb (second-round selection in 2011) and Smith (fourth-round pick in 2006 who predominantly played quarterback throughout his college career at Missouri).
But all three players have made their marks on both offense and special teams, and more importantly, sustained lengthy NFL careers.
The 6'2", 215-pound Miller is now in a position where he could do the same, as he's already put enough on film—including 3,054 career rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns—to make scouts believe that he could make an instant impact at his new position. That's especially true when it comes to making plays in open space, which he excelled at throughout the first three years of his college career.
"From what I've seen of his movement and explosive ability, it's all there athletically," Matt Miller said. "He's a powerful runner for his size and has the get-up-and-go to pull away from defensive backs. Ideally, he'll be used a lot in space on shorter routes where his ability to make defenders miss can come into play."
Of course, there's only so much that you can project for a player at one position when he's spent the entirety of his college career playing another.
Can Miller catch, run routes, separate consistently and put it all together with less than seven weeks remaining until the start of his senior season Sept. 7?
These are the questions that will need to be answered before Miller's potential as an NFL player is ultimately determined. But as of Thursday night, he finds himself with perhaps more upside as a pro prospect than he ever previously has.
"There's risk, but I think it's a very calculated one, and it's the right move because his upside at QB was so limited," Matt Miller said. "And even if he struggles in one year of wide receiver at Ohio State, the potential is still there for him to be drafted on."
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.