Weight: 201 pounds
What I like — Milliner has an ideal physical build for the NFL. He’s tall with long arms and a strong muscular build. He doesn’t look thin or frail like some taller corners, and he has big hands as well. In a league that covets this type of player more and more, players like Milliner will become more common in college football.
Milliner also has tremendous triangle numbers, but he’s more than just speed on the stopwatch. Milliner’s recovery speed and ability to close is among the best in the entire draft. Milliner’s primary defense while at Alabama has been zone, and he’s easily the best zone cover corner in this draft. He understands spacing and position, can read the eyes of the quarterback, the hips of the receivers and does an excellent job with angles to routes.
Milliner also shows excellent ball skills as he’s able to time his breaks well, and even if it doesn’t turn into an interception, is able to put his hands on the football and disrupt it.
Another thing that works heavily in Milliner’s favor is that he’s played in a very traditional pro-style defense that uses NFL verbiage, and did it against some of the most explosive players int he country. He’s got tremendous game experience and even with so many stars around him, he was able to make lots of big plays.
What I don’t like — For everything I like about Milliner and his game in zone coverage, I am equally unimpressed in his man coverage. Man coverage is a much more technique-intensive way of playing football. Rarely is Milliner asked to play up tight, hold a backpedal and turn and mirror a receiver.
I am not one that favors that sideways sort of half backpedal he uses, and I suspect that in the NFL, wide receivers are going to take advantage of his inability to remain fluid and face up on receivers. How high a team will rank Milliner will depend greatly on whether or not they want him to play man. If they do, his lack of adequate footwork and a tendency to get up out of his stance far too quickly will really test his recovery speed.
What it all means — Most consider Milliner the consensus top cornerback in this draft. I don’t share that sentiment. I think if you play a zone-heavy defense, I can completely understand taking Milliner first. But if you are looking for a true boundary cornerback who can come up and get physical with receivers, knock them off their timing and mirror big, fast wide outs, I’m not sure Milliner if your guy.
I also feel I have to touch on Milliner’s run defense since it really falls in both his good and bad. Milliner is a smart player and just as he’s able to break down a pass play and break on the ball, he’s also able to diagnose a run play and use his speed and angles to get to the football.
The problem is with his tackling. He’s a bit of a grab-and-drag type of tackler and in the open field when he’s dealing with a back, he’ll dip his head and dive, which can turn into missed tackles. Being a big strong physical guy, I expect to see him come at a ball carrier hard and fast and tackle right through them.
As far as draft slotting, it appears as if Milliner is ascending and could end up a top-6 pick. I have no doubt Milliner will be a great cornerback in the NFL, but there are things I look for personally in cornerbacks that push Milliner back some for me.