Back in 2011, the San Francisco 49ers had one of the best drafts in franchise history. Starting with Aldon Smith in the first round, the 49ers added Colin Kaepernick, Kendall Hunter, and Chris Culliver, all who have made a tremendous impact on the 49ers since they were drafted. The most overlooked player in this draft has to be Bruce Miller, the fullback out of Central Florida, whom the 49ers took in the seventh round.
You can probably guess that the biggest impact Miller makes for the 49ers offense is in the run game. In the three years prior to Miller getting drafted, the 49ers averaged 101.2 rushing yards per game, which was in the bottom third of the league. In the three seasons since then, they’ve averaged 144.7, which is a 43.5 yard per game increase, and good enough for three consecutive top 10 seasons.
Last year, Pro Football Focus graded Miller as being the fifth best fullback according to their own scoring system. Even after breaking his scapula in the win over Tampa Bay in Week 15, which prematurely ended his season, Miller still played 534 snaps, which was second most among fullbacks in the NFL behind Mike Tolbert. In addition, he’s also a contributor on special teams.
To highlight Miller’s importance to the 49ers’ run game, let’s take a look at Frank Gore‘s rushing numbers with and without Miller leading the way:
Miller is the 49ers’ Swiss army knife who does it all, from rushing, to blocking, to special teams. The front office recognized that as well by giving him a three year extension back in March. A healthy Miller is an important cog to the 49ers’ drive to the elusive Super Bowl victory.