It's safe to say that Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner has solidified his spot at the top of NFL Draft rankings for the cornerback position. In fact, he likely has solidified his status as one of the top players in the entire draft after running a 4.37 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Combine on Tuesday. Milliner responded to questions about his athleticism over the weekend by simply saying that his critics should watch the combine, and he backed up his confidence in a big way.
Last week, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew noted that the 40-yard dash is quite important in the evaluation process for cornerbacks. Mayhew, who was a cornerback in his playing days, considers corners who run something below 4.5 to be fast, and he said that players with slower times "have to have something else going for them."
Clearly, Milliner has established himself as fast with his 40-yard dash time. His drills weren't outstanding, as he dropped a lot of passes, but Milliner is without a doubt in the mix for the Lions' first-round pick. That was the case even before Tuesday, but now it wouldn't be a stretch to call Milliner one of the favorites for the fifth overall pick. The argument against him was that he isn't an elite cornerback and isn't worth the fifth overall pick as a result, but that claim seems to be disappearing a bit now.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this is what Sports Illustrated's Peter King said about Milliner and the Lions on Monday. King called Milliner to the Lions "the most obvious pick in any draft in recent years," and he also tweeted this:
If you want the draft's top CB, Dee Milliner, you'll probably have to trade ahead of Detroit at 5 to get him.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 25, 2013
King's assessment of this being an obvious pick doesn't seem accurate, and the above tweet comes off as a smokescreen more than anything. However, given what Milliner did on Tuesday at the combine, teams may have to move ahead of the Lions if they want a shot at Milliner. Actually, they may need to move ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles as well. It's now a real possibility that the Lions may not even have a chance to draft him at No. 5.
The big question with Milliner now is his health. He worked out at the combine despite needing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Anwar Richardson reports that the surgery is scheduled for March 12. Milliner is expected to be 100 percent by the time training camp arrives, but it's something to keep an eye on.
Although I liked what I saw out of Milliner on the field at Alabama, I admittedly wasn't all that high on the idea of the Lions drafting him fifth overall before Tuesday. Now, though, after seeing his athleticism, I don't think it'd be a reach for the Lions to take him with the No. 5 pick, mainly because it now looks like he could go even higher than that. Especially if the Lions lose Chris Houston in free agency, drafting Milliner would make a lot of sense.