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Eating Crow: My Case For Von Miller

For the last few weeks, I’ve been resisting the popular theory that the Houston Texans should select Von Miller with the eleventh overall pick.  I felt so strongly that it was a bad idea that I wrote an entire article to explain my reasoning.  As the title to this post suggests, I have changed my mind on the matter.  This isn’t, however, simply a case of suddenly thinking he has ability whereas I didn’t before.  If you read the previously linked article, you’ll see that my reasoning was not due to Miller having a lack of talent, but rather the question of how that talent fit on the Texans roster.

So what could have changed in a couple of weeks?  There have been no developments with the team that suddenly created a need for Miller, and there won’t be any roster changes until the draft itself because of the CBA uncertainty.  While the Texas A&M linebacker spent a week down at the Senior Bowl in the spotlight, very few things were revealed about Miller that weren’t already known during the practices and the game itself.  My change of heart is a combination of getting to see him more during NFL Network’s coverage, and a reevaluation of how he might be utilized by Wade Phillips in the new 3-4 scheme.  Below the jump, I’ll play devil’s advocate to my previously used rationale, and tell you why I was probably wrong.

Here are my former reasons and my newfound arguments against them:

1. Connor Barwin is a better fit at WOLB – My opinion on this matter hasn’t changed.  I won’t completely repeat all the reasons, but the summary is Barwin has two NFL training camps and one successful NFL season on not only Miller but every other OLB draftee and he is just as suited physically.  Drafted players are usually the flavor of the month, but people quickly forget about them once they have an NFL season under their belt unless they performed at ROY levels.  Often times, it takes a season or two to develop that physically gifted college player into an every-down, effective NFL player.  So just remember as we watch draftees at the Combine dazzle with their straight line speed, Barwin ran a sub 4.5 forty yard dash and had the athleticism to work out effectively as an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a defensive end and a linebacker. 

2. Von Miller relies solely on speed and is raw as a pass rusher – So why would I reemphasize my opinion in paragraph 1 that Barwin should start at WOLB in an endorsement for drafting Miller?  Miller could start at SOLB.  His incredible speed would often be enough to take advantage of offenses that schemed to stop Barwin and Mario Williams on the other side.  Miller also showed in Mobile that while not perfect, he can use his athleticism to cover in space.  This would allow Miller to play while an NFL coaching staff developed him as a pass rusher, an on-the-job training program, if you will.  Also,  Williams, Barwin and Miller on the field together would give Wade Phillips three pass rushers to allow creativity, something that essentially has never been seen on a Texans defense ever.

3. One of this year’s draft class' deepest positions is outside linebacker – While there are several linebackers I would love to have if we did not have Barwin already, most fit the same role that he does--an athletic player with size who can get to the quarterback but probably not cover effectively.  Sticking someone like Robert Quinn or Justin Houston opposite Barwin would be great for rushing the passer, but that would make the defense extremely vulnerable over the middle, which is where hot routes to avoid pressure are usually located.  Nevada's Dontay Moch is likely the only other 3-4 OLB prospect who can match Miller’s athleticism, and he is much more raw than the Butkus Award winner. 

Look at the defenses that Wade Phillips ran most recently with the Cowboys and the Chargers.  With Phillips at the helm, they always featured a prominent pressure linebacker, namely Shawne Merriman and DeMarcus Ware.  The most successful of years for these two defenses, however, were the seasons that there was a prominent pass rusher opposite the main rush linebacker.  Greg Ellis filled that role in 2007, while Shaun Phillips did in 2006.  2006 was Phillips’ rookie season, by the way, and he was considered underdeveloped as a pass rusher going into the draft.  The threat of Merriman on the other side allowed Phillips an easier path to opposing quarterbacks and 11.5 sacks.

Between his success at the Senior Bowl and what will surely be an impressive performance at the Combine, the Texans may not even be faced with the decision whether to draft Miller or not.  If that is the case, I would not be in favor of drafting any OLB at eleven because I don’t think there is another linebacker that has the combination of speed and coverage ability that Miller currently possesses.  The previously mentioned Moch would be the next best candidate in the second round to fill that role.

My change of heart on Miller had more to do with a personal reevaluation of his potential role with the Texans than his recent performance at the Senior Bowl, although it was beneficial to see him in coverage during the drills.  I find it ironic, though, that if the Texans were without Barwin or someone that I felt comfortable filling the WOLB role, I would be more in favor of drafting someone like Quinn or Houston.  What about you, BRB readers?  Have your opinions on the target for the eleventh pick changed at all?