NFL Draft 2014 Risers/Fallers: Is Ohio State’s Braxton Miller a legit pro prospect?
The natural tendency with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is to compare him to his predecessor in Columbus, current Raiders starter Terrelle Pryor. But while there are certainly some similarities there, it would be a mistake simply to lump the two together.
For starters, Miller is going to head to the NFL — either after this season or in 2015 — further along in his development as a passer than Pryor was when he entered the supplemental draft. Miller flashed his improvement there again Saturday, picking apart Penn State on 18-of-24 passing for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
Does that mean Miller is a polished thrower? Or that he’s on the same level in that attribute as players like Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota or even Johnny Manziel? What Miller is in that regard is better than he was last season; heck, he’s better than he was earlier this month, when Northwestern flustered him in a close game.
Even when he completes 75 percent of his passes, as he did Saturday, Miller will uncork a couple throws that can leave you scratching your head — balls whipped past receivers at close range or fired into guys’ feet on the run. He’s getting better in all regards, though, which will be critical for NFL evaluators if Miller heads into the 2014 draft.
No matter when he makes the leap, Miller will find an NFL home. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he does not have Pryor’s size (6-4, 233), and Pryor is more of a natural runner outside the pocket.
You might remember, however, that Pryor admitted as recently as this past preseason that he had never really been taught how to throw the ball properly. Miller is a long way from a finished, refined product (especially for NFL teams that may want to use him under center more), but he is slowly moving his passing game forward.
His performance last Saturday was further proof that Miller has plenty of untapped potential.
A look at more of this week’s stars and flops from the world of college football:
• Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: Sankey still has a year of college eligibility left, but he becomes more and more a sure bet to head pro with each positive showing. He had another one Saturday, rushing 27 times for 241 yards and two TDs against an overmatched Cal defense. Sankey’s a smart, effective runner who also has 55 career catches to his credit. In a year where several running backs may be jumbled atop draft boards, could Sankey emerge as the No. 1 option?
• David Fales, QB, San Jose State: It’s not so much that Fales boosted his draft stock with a 482-yard, five-TD showing against a defensively deficient Wyoming team. It is more that he has bounced back from a couple of shaky showings — one at Minnesota, another against Utah State — to find a little groove over the past two weekends.
Fales is not going to be a guy that can step in on all 32 teams and succeed at quarterback. He probably would be best off in a West Coast attack, where he could utilize his arm and vision. A run of outings like he had Saturday would do wonders for his stock.
• Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma: Former Philadelphia Eagles scout John Middlekauff tweeted prior to the 2013 season that Saunders “has some DeSean Jackson in him.” The comparisons are rather noticeable — Saunders, like Jackson, is a smallish (5-9, 160 pounds) WR who can dominate with speed from the slot. He had his best game of the season this past weekend, schooling Texas Tech for 153 yards and two TDs.
• Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky: Consider this merely a reminder that Andrews is still lurking as an intriguing 2014 draft prospect. He had his best 2013 game as a pass-catcher this week in a loss to Troy (seven grabs, 125 yards), but perhaps more impressive is that Andrews just keeps grinding it out on the ground. He rushed for 144 yards on Saturday, the seventh time in eight games he’s hit the century mark — including an 111-yarder vs. Tennessee. Andrews’ one game in which he finished shy of triple digits: 99 yards in the opener.
• Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah: May as well get familiar with Reilly, who’s in the midst of a breakthrough season as a DE/OLB for the Utes. Reilly followed up a 14-tackle, two-sack showing at Arizona by racking up another 11 tackles and two more sacks in a loss to USC. He could use a little bulking up (Utah lists him at 255) and he’ll turn 26 in January, but the talent is there to be an effective NFL player off the edge.
• Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers: The conversation surrounding Coleman is not all that different from the one regarding Marqise Lee (at least before Lee’s injury woes). How much do you blame a receiver for issues at quarterback and elsewhere on offense?
But while Coleman’s paltry numbers are not all his fault, his almost complete lack of production — and seemingly failure to really hone his skills from the 2012 season — could drive his stock down come draft time. Coleman still has yet to find the end zone this year (and remains two receiving TDs shy of Rutgers’ school record), and he was held off the stat sheet entirely Saturday during a blowout loss to Houston.
• Trey Millard, FB/TE, Oklahoma: A torn ACL will cost Millard some critical pre-draft workout time, meaning he’ll need some team to gamble on him come May. That’s a tough spot to be in made even more difficult by Millard’s primary position: fullback.
What works in his favor, however, is that he plays a game more befitting the H-back role that’s becoming more prevalent in the NFL. Millard can catch, block and run … but it will be a while before he is back on the field.
• Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Saturday probably served as the nail in the coffin for any that hoped Thomas might turn some metaphorical corner as a senior. Though he passed for 214 yards and rushed for another 101, Thomas fired four interceptions (granted, not all his fault) in a home loss to Duke. Any team that looks to draft him will do so knowing that there are a lot of warts hiding most of Thomas’ upside. He’s a late-round gamble at best.