(A rebuttal to the current front page post, Why Von Miller Shouldn't be the Denver Broncos' 2nd Overall Pick)
With Von Miller soon to be a Bronco, we should all be prepared for questions and confusion. The echo chamber and even conventional wisdom says that Von Miller’s value is in a 3-4 defense, and also that he’s rarely been asked to perform regular linebacker duties – making him more of a ‘projection’ rather than an ‘evaluation’, which in turn, makes drafting him more risky.
There is substance and merit to these claims, but not nearly as much as some would have you believe. College defensive ends, for example, are taken in every round of every draft, by teams that convert them to linebackers. Many of these prospects have virtually no experience in their new role, which is not at all the case with Miller. And our own HC John Fox is also no stranger to converting a player to linebacker, having drafted safety Thomas Davis with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 draft, only to immediately convert him to linebacker. Turning a first-round safety into a linebacker is far and away the more complicated projection.
More specifically to Miller’s "conversion", even in the sick ‘em role he played in over the last two years, not all plays were pass plays. Meaning, he has a plethora of game film showing coaches and talent evaluators his ability to stack and shed, and how well he uses his hands to get off blocks, get through the trash, and get to running backs on the other side of the field. His abilities against the run are much more of an evaluation than a projection. It’s something he’s done quite a lot of, in fact.
Miller in coverage is the only real projection here, and even that’s more of a half projection and half evaluation. Most fans know that Von primarily played the sick-‘em role these last two years at Texas A&M, but the lesser known fact (and far less talked about) is that he also played a regular linebacker role during his sophomore year in college. And he also provided coaches with film of him in regular linebacker duties at the Senior Bowl.
So there was film to evaluate Von Miller in coverage, although some projection was also needed. As for his pass rush, run thumping, instincts, his nose for the football and knack for making big plays, his willingness to hit hard, his effort, motor and character, well, that’s already been weighed and measured.
Again, only Miller’s coverage duties were lacking a substantial amount of game film. But he has done it, and he has excelled at it. And try this on for size: Name a linebacker with terrific size and strength that has elite athleticism, fluid hips, great instincts and runs a sub 4.5 forty... that also sucks in coverage. Give up? Yeah, me too.
For additional information on Von Miller and how he might be used in this defense, please visit The Von Miller Mold and this post relating to his utilization in the zone blitz. And for the record, I wasn't a Von Miller homer during his college days. Not even in early off-season. I originally stood beside the other knowledgeable football fans in thinking Miller was a better fit in a 3-4, and that he didn't present a 4-3 team enough value for a top-five selection. The strength of this particular draft (DL) and the fact that Miller fills two immediate needs with one pick is what eventually turned me.