Throughout the 2013 NFL Draft process thus far, Eagles fans and reporters have mostly focused on defensive and offensive line prospects for the 4th overall pick, despite the team's shortcomings in the secondary. Alabama's Dee Milliner is considered not only the best cornerback, but also the best defensive back in this class as well. For some time he has been questioned as a Top 10 prospect, but after his showing today at the Combine, it may have surged him into the Top 5 discussions with the Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles and Lions all needing cornerback reinforcements.
Milliner is a proven winner, having played for two of Alabama's National Championship teams. He also has a tremendous pedigree as a 5-star high school prospect and was a considered the top cornerback in the country by Scout.com. He has plenty experience for a guy coming out as Junior, with having started all but 8 games since he started playing as a true freshman. He was a force in 2012, with 18 pass defenses, 54 tackles and 22-pass break ups as well as two interceptions.
Milliner is a pure coverage guy who is known for shutting down opposing wide receivers and even covered Tyler Eifert during the National Championship game. CBS sports says he "plays with excellent coordination and smooth hips, using his arms and hands to knock down throws. Excellent awareness and read/react ability, getting his head turned and uses his eyes well to quickly find the ball" and says he is a "very good tackler." NFL.com adds that he "owns sufficient height, length, and upper-body strength to fight with pro receivers over the middle or down the sideline. Capable of getting a solid punch at the line of scrimmage in press and the quick feet to stay with his man down the field after contact."
It should be noted that CBS Sports considers his biggest weakness "lack of elite speed" but today's 40-time of 4.37 (Editors note: Official time is now 4.37, unofficial was 4.31) puts him among the elite at the Combine. Only Texas wide receiver, Marquise Goodwin and Darius Slay of Mississippi State, ran faster at the Combine than Milliner with 4.27 and 4.36. He also have a 36-inch (3-foot) vertical which is solid by cornerback standards, especially considering his size. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, Deion Sanders and Mike Mayock were all vocal about their pleasure with his speed. They all acknowledge he is the clear-cut number 1 cornerback.
Now, Milliner still has his bumps and bruises. For one, he will not participate in his Pro Day due to shoulder surgery he will have next week. He is expected to miss similar time (3-4 months) to Dion Jordan (labrum surgery). Milliner is also a product of the Alabama defensive system which used the "crab walk" technique to cover wide receivers instead of back peddling, so he's a bit of a novice there. Both CBS Sports and NFL.com question his ball skills, which is normally a perquisite of a Top 5 pick at cornerback. NFL went as far as to say he "can lose track of the ball in the air and will mistime his plays on the ball." CBS says he "needs to refine some of his cover technique, most notably his backpedal." He also did not show great hands during the DB drills at the Combine, but that is something that can likely be coached.
Here is a few looks at Milliner on tape:
With all that we know now, especially about Milliner's speed, should he be considered at pick number 4? There are not a lot of stand-out picks in the Top 10 and no one is really "can't miss," so take that into consideration.