“With the 9th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama.” The crowd cheers, some roar for what they hope is the next Darrelle Revis, while the minority of the crowd realizes for once, the Jets took the most talented football player on the big board with a top ten selection. With all this hoopla, why has Dee Milliner been a quiet topic in Jets land, pre-training camp? Certainly his recovery from a torn labrum in his shoulder has a lot to do with it, but nabbing Geno Smith (possibly the 2013 draft’s most popular player) in the second round has also aided the lack of a spotlight in Milliner’s direction. While buzz is virtually meaningless before training camp unless your accused of murder, the Jets need to strike gold with DeMarcus Milliner as they look to infuse youth into a once dominant defense.
Standing a shade over six feet tall, bolstering a 200 pound muscular frame, Milliner certainly looks the part of an All-American cornerback who played for two NCAA championship teams. Beyond the appearance, he clocks in a 4.37 forty yard dash displaying “elite” speed, not only for a corner but amongst all combine participants.
Outside the impressive measurables lays an All-American cornerback for a college football team that is building a reputation as a dynasty. It’s quite difficult to find the negatives on Milliner. He played for two championship teams against the best and most NFL ready competition college football had to offer. He locked down the opposition’s top receiving threat week after week, whether that was a wide out, a slot receiver, or tight end. He led college football in pass break ups with twenty. When scouts began to rank the cornerbacks entering the 2013 draft, their only main knock on Milliner was that he possessed “average straight line speed”, then he ran a 4.37 at the combine.
Dee’s physical play rarely has him playing far off his man, but in the few situations where his man is given space he hits like a strong safety. While at times he throws his body around too much, physical corners who play the run with tenacity are quite difficult to find. His frame, strength, and speed made him a superior block shedder in college and a standout run supporter along the edge.
A surprising note many analysts have failed to mention is Milliner’s knack for swatting the football. I’ve seen a few reports knocking him for his lack of elite hands, but these reports are overlooking his intelligence. He often recognizes when he can snag the ball from the air and when he is better off batting the ball away from the target. Many young corners over bite for the big play (the interception), and often completely miss the ball. Milliner’s elite pass defending skills will lead to many interception opportunities for defenders in his vicinity.
With proper coaching and a solid supporting cast around him, Milliner is poised for a successful NFL career with the New York Jets. He won’t be expected to be Darrelle Revis from day 1, as standout corner Antonio Cromartie will fill that role. Kyle Wilson has been solid on the outside as well, allowing Milliner to ease his way in. He has experience at nickel from his freshman season at college, where he was a Freshman All-American by College Football News. It’s quite surprising how quiet the news front has been on Milliner, but you can certainly expect him to make a lot of noise come July 25th.