Evan Silva termed Miami running back Lamar Miller “the early preseason-buzz MVP.” Understandable. He’s a back whose talents reminded me of two of his University of Miami predecessors: Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James. The 2012 rookie is earning a lot of encouraging PR from his organization. With Reggie Bush leaving and third-year back Daniel Thomas not flashing the promise that Miller demonstrated in limited time, there’s good reason for Miller to be coined an emerging talent in 2013.
Miller was my No.3 back in the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio behind Trent Richardson and Doug Martin. Here’s my brief summary of Miller from these rankings:
Lamar Miller is a potential Pro Bowl back. He’s at the sweet spot in terms of height, weight, speed, and acceleration. He runs with patience, balance, and he protects the football. He understands how to stay close to his blocks until an opening develops and like Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James before him, he knows how to shorten his steps in traffic until he finds a cutback lane or alternate crease when the primary hole doesn’t come open. He runs with good balance and power between the tackles. He can run through contact and he has good enough footwork to prevent defenders from getting angles on him. He bends runs with good speed and he has shown some skill to pick and slide towards creases or press a crease and cut back. He keeps his legs moving after contact and his pad level is consistently low enough that he bounces off hits and maximizes his output on carries. He knows how to minimize his surface area in the hole and still get down hill fast.
Miller is fast and his burst is Pro Bowl-caliber in the respect that when given a hole he can accelerate past all three levels of a defense and turn a 10-yard gain into a 40-yard touchdown. There is little doubt that Miller has a ton of physical talent, but there are plays where he seems to go out of bounds too willingly where he could have fought to stay in the field of play and gain more yardage. These plays occurred when time wasn’t a factor for the drive. Miller catches the ball as well as any back in this class. He uses his hands to snare passes and he repeatedly demonstrated the ability to catch the errant throw with good body control and concentration. I saw him make an acrobatic catch that was over 25 yards from release point to reception that many college WR’s can’t make.
Miller’s effort as a blocker is not good enough. He will deliver a punch and he has skill at getting the correct angle to make a block. However, he doesn’t sustain the contact and work hard enough to maintain that position. Miller diagnoses blocks effectively, but he has to do better with his cut blocking. He drops his head too early As a run blocker, he seems more worried about getting hit from behind or hurt in the act of blocking that helping his teammates make plays.
I can see the Clinton Portis comparisons because Miller has game-breaking speed, explosive lateral agility, and enough down hill power and balance to generate big plays in multiple ways. The difference is that Miller makes running the football look easier than Portis did in college and I think it might be part of the perception that his effort isn’t always there when in fact, he’s just more graceful than people realize. Purely on ability, he could start for an NFL team today. The key will be how well he transitions from a college campus to professional life.
Lamar Miller highlights:
After the draft, I dropped Miller a couple spots in my post-draft rankings, listing him as a “bad fit,” with a caveat:
Here’s another loaded depth chart situation in Miami where the draft pick will have to beat multiple teammates for an opportunity. Although Miller and Daniel Thomas are different styles of runner, Reggie Bush played well enough that it’s difficult to expect the rookie will see playing time as more than a return specialist unless Bush gets hurt. Past history does call Bush’s durability into question, but the former Saints runner stayed healthy in 2011. Running back has a short-term career cycle in the NFL so calling Miller’s fit “bad” today can change to “great” tomorrow.
Apparently, tomorrow is here. Below are links to play-by-play reports and grading reports from two of the three games that I believe best represent Miller’s skill and potential. These reports are the backbone for the analysis that I provide to those who download the Rookie Scouting Portfolio every year. My readers who want the bottom-line may not spend a lot of time with this portion of the publication, but they know the analysis they get in the front of the book is based on the exhaustive detail of the process I share for the sake of transparency.
For more analysis of skill players like this post, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio available April 1. Prepayment is available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.