Scouting Memphis WR Anthony Miller

anthony-miller-590x310

When Marty Hurney and the Panthers head into the War Room next week, most of the attention will be focused on what they do with the 24th pick. Does a premium Edge rusher or Defensive Back fall? Maybe the answer is an Interior Lineman, or Tight End? Everything really is on the table…and while the 24th selection is certainly important, the three picks they hold on the second night of the draft, become just as critical for a team with so many obvious holes. One of those holes is at the Wide Receiver position, a spot that the Panthers have been trying to find an answer at for the better part of 10 years, and two General Manager’s time with the club. While DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley are the sexy names, the Panthers may find better investment opportunities in the second round.

Enter Anthony Miller, the Memphis Tigers’ premier option in the passing game. Despite only playing 25 games (17 starts) for the Tigers, Miller  has become a dynamic Wide Receiver, who should warrant day two consideration next week. After working his way up the depth chart as a walk on, Miller found early success with the Tigers, finishing third on the team in receptions in 2015 despite only starting four games.  In 2016 the Tiger bested Issac Bruce’s single season reception yardage record, and then one upped his own the next season. Miller’s numbers are spectacular the last two years. Immediately, you notice the competition he has faced for the majority of his games and scoff, but watching Miller shows a WR who may surprise at the next level.

One of Miller’s biggest assets is his quickness on the field. Running routes, cutting back into space, starting and stopping….Anthony Miller does everything fast. He makes changing direction look effortless, and he freezes Defenders with stutters at the line of scrimmage.

a mill1 td stutter v ucla

On this play, Miller lines up on the far hash, against talented Freshman Corner Darnay Holmes. Miller uses his head fake and a quick jab inside to sell the Slant. Holmes reads this, then takes the slightest of steps down inside, giving Miller the outside leverage. Miller obliges, and blows by Holmes on his outside shoulder. Holmes is a tremendous athlete, but even he can’t make up the ground created by the initial move. The result is an open window for Quarterback Riley Ferguson, and he finds his favorite target for a touchdown.

amill 2 catch and run ucla

On this play, Miller again sends a UCLA Defensive Back the wrong way, by selling the outside move. He wins the matchup, turning Denzel Fisher around. This creates the space he needs for Ferguson to find him again. Miller shows off great ability to adjust to a poorly thrown ball, and then makes two quick cuts to create lanes for extra yardage.

Along with the quick and sudden movement, comes a well-rounded route runner. Miller has a NFL ready route tree, and is technical in running them. He sets his routes up well, and uses his acceleration in, and out of routes to create added separation.

amill 3 sluggo ucf

On this Sluggo, Miller makes a quick break inside, and then accelerates instantly back out. The Defender Nevelle Clark, is unable to flip his hips and get into pursuit. Miller slaps Clark’s desperate grab attempt away, and Clark is left in the dust. Miller is all alone, and just needs to wait for the football. The Safety ultimately gets the angle, but Miller is able to absorb contact and walk into the endzone.

amill tulane curl

Miller is given a free release at the far hash on this play against Tulane, which is always a scary proposition against the Tiger. Tulane is actually playing to take away the deep ball, and Memphis has dialed up the perfect call. Miller bends the route off, and curls to the outside. If not for the poorly thrown ball that Miller is able to adjust to, the dynamic playmaker might be able to make a move for more yardage.

amill post uconn

Here we can see Miller use a quick move inside, as well as his upper body to create separation for another easy completion. The separation he creates through his route running, allows for large windows to throw in, that any NFL Quarterback should thrive with.

amill 1 hand uconn

amill 1 hand usf

What Miller lacks in body size, he makes up with hands that are big enough to rip the football out of the air mid-flight with ease. Miller’s hands were tied for the third largest among all WR at 10 inches, despite his physical frame that came in at the 50th percentile or lower in all other measurements.

amill rz 1

amill rz wku

amill hughes 1

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Miller is also very good at playing “bigger”. He does a good job reading Defenders, and out working them for the ball. He shows ability to get vertical at the catch point, and doesn’t let contact deter him from getting to the ball.

amill hughes 2

On this play, Miller is covered by the physical Mike Hughes. Hughes presses him tightly off the snap, keeping his hands all over him. Miller shows his surprising strength, working through the press and making the play.

amill fight 1

amill fight 2

Miller is all about effort. From his playmaking ability after the catch, his willingness to work to get open while his Quarterback scrambles, and even his “want to” in blocking situations, the former walk on rarely gets outworked on a play.

miller block

On this play, Miller is able to seal the lane on third down, and create the space for the Running Back to convert.

amill working wku

Miller actually is at the bottom of the picture here on the snap. He runs his fade, but then recognizes Ferguson having to move out of the pocket. Instead of staying in the same area, he works across the field, providing a relatively easy target for his Quarterback.

Of course no prospect is perfect, and Anthony Miller isn’t without his flaws. His size may make him best suited for the slot, though I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. He also has some ball security, and concentration issues, and lacks “game breaking” speed.

amill fumble uconn

Here we’ll see Miller drop his carry, as he looks to make a play. Despite his large hands, and upper body strength, Miller is unable to hold onto the ball through contact. His fumbles are more of a desire to make highlight plays then any physical issues in my opinion, so I’m less concerned in this area.

miller drop

Like most college Wide Receivers, Anthony Miller has the occasional concentration drop. While this isn’t anything new for WR prospects, drops on third down like the one above can be critical turning points in games.

All things considered, Anthony Miller could offer a team excellent value on day two of the NFL Draft. In a class that does not feature a standout playmaker at the position, it could be the walk on Tiger that ends up the best of the bunch. His ability as a route runner, willingness to play bigger than he should, and the bite, scratch, and claw mentality he possesses, could turn him into an NFL gem. His strength through press coverage, and speed on the field could turn him into a legitimate number one at the next level. If the Panthers choose to sit out the Wide Receiver value in the first round, they may be rewarded for their patience with the young Tiger.

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