Over a year ago, Ohio State Quarterback, Braxton Miller was expected to take the field for his final season in Columbus. There was an heir of incredible optimism surrounding Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes. After all, the senior quarterback had totaled over 8000 yards from scrimmage and 84 touchdowns in his previous seasons, he was a Heisman favorite; his future was bright going into this season and beyond, in the NFL.
The 21 year old star suffered a major shoulder injury in camp that would sideline him for the entire year. It seemed as if his time at Ohio State was over and the outlook of him becoming an NFL player was bleak. An injury to his throwing shoulder could ruin his chances of being an NFL quarterback and the risk of injury could make a positional switch very risky to his own health. After being sidelined, freshman quarterback, JT Barrett took the reins and led Ohio State on a dominant run through the regular season and third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, took over in the postseason for an injured Barrett and subsequently powered through Wisconsin, Alabama and, finally, Oregon in the Nation Championship.
Heading into the offseason, Braxton Miller stated he wanted to stay for a final year in Columbus, Cardale Jones decided to forgo the NFL draft for another year as a Buckeye and JT Barrett was only going into his sophomore year. Three different players with different skill sets, but all very talented. Ohio State had a good problem. However, as the offseason wore on, it became more and more apparent that Braxton Miller would not be playing quarterback for Ohio State any longer. His shoulder injury has been said to have completely compromised his arm strength and, head coach, Urban Meyer was pitting JT Barrett and Cardale Jones against each other in a Quarterback Battle.
Miller's college future was finally confirmed. He would play wide receiver for the Buckeyes.
My initial reaction was frustration and worry. For one, I had always loved the idea of Braxton Miller playing quarterback in the NFL. His intelligence, intermediate accuracy and game changing mobility made him a force at signal caller who could completely change the dynamic of an offense. Also, moving to wide receiver would open him up to contact, and coming off a shoulder injury, that puts his health at risk long term. However, it was a risk that, I guess, had to be taken. Braxton Miller wanted to play football and like so many other football players, he was willing to do whatever it took to see that football field. So, while a quarterback battle raged on between Cardale Jones and JT Barrett, I was most concerned for what would happen to the newly anointed Ohio State wideout.
On September 7th, 2015, I learned something very valuable: No one can hit you if they can't catch you.
Ohio State took on the Virginia Tech Hokies, whose defense has a bevy of NFL talent and Miller absolutely dominated. He caught thee passes for 79 yards, including a 54 yard touchdown and rushed for 61 yards, including that incredible touchdown. He looked like a natural and why wouldn't he? When he was playing quarterback, he was always one of the best players in the country with the ball in his hands at any position.
I shouldn't have overthought this. Braxton Miller is a special athlete and a special football player.
From a pure physical standpoint, Braxton Miller has a very good build for a skill player, standing at a well built 6-2, 215 pounds. He has strength behind his pads when he runs, but it probably will not make a difference because he is so, so damn fast.
Look at that! He accelerates seamlessly and keeps his speed through contact. He has great vision, balance and agility. The fact that he can gain speed through cuts, let alone a freaking spin move is almost physically unimaginable. He is a freak of nature. No one will question his physical ability, I hope, but what about nuance? Playing wide receiver at a high level requires a great understanding of coverages, the ability to run routes, attack the ball in the air, using good hand technique... There is so much for a first year wide receiver to learn and I am already calling him worthy of a first round pick!? Am I crazy? Stupid!?!?
Well, maybe, but the NFL shouldn't over think this and neither should you.
In all of college football, let alone in the 2016 class, how many more players are electric with the ball in their hands than Braxton Miller? Seriously, there may only a handful of players who scare the shit out of a defense like Braxton Miller does every time he touches the ball. He has NFL size and, more importantly, NFL speed.
This is not a Darius Heyward Bey situation where there is speed and no polish. Braxton is a very nuanced runner in the open field, he knows how to read the field and attack it's weaknesses. His time at quarterback makes him an expert at reading coverages and finding soft spots in zones. Above the shoulders, everything is there you would want in any skill player. Yes, he may need time to work on route running, but this is the same Braxton Miller who worked his ass off to get better at quarterback every single year he played for the Buckeyes. I am sure Miller has and will continue to dedicate himself to getting better at wide receiver as his career goes on.
"But is really worth a first round pick?"
People will question his value and his trajectory in the NFL, but it is a lot more simple than people make it out to be. Give him the damn ball. It may take time for him to grow into being a receiver, but in the meantime, throw it to him on a screen, run him on a drag route, direct snap runs at quarterback or just hand him the freaking football. In a league where Trent Richardson can get 159 carries in a season, I am sure an NFL offense can spare a few of those for a dynamic football player who can change the game in any given moment. Braxton Miller is the perfect pick for a team in the second half of the first round looking for a spark on offense. If a smart team can get him the football, which is not nearly as difficult as people and teams want to make it out to be, he will create offense and score points.
Julian Edleman was a full time quarterback at Kent State who converted to an eventual thousand yard wide receiver. Braxton Miller is much bigger, much more athletic and has the luxury of a full season in college at a skill position before hitting the NFL. The future is there for Braxton Miller, the NFL just cannot overthink this.
Does this concern Eagles fans?
While this offense has a ton of talented players, it surely does not have a surefire home run hitter who can house the ball at any given moment, exploding for fifty yard touchdowns. Could you imagine Braxton Miller in the space this offense creates? Dear lord. Of course it would be a bit of a "luxury" pick, but I doubt there will be a guard worth taking at whatever spot we pick in the first round. Keep an eye on Braxton Miller throughout the season as he continues to do video game things on the field and improve steadily.
Get excited, Eagles fans and get excited, NFL fans, because Braxton Miller is coming for the league and he is going to be a star.