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2019 NFL draft profile: Alabama EDGE Christian Miller is the underrated pass rusher the Lions need

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Get to know one of the more underrated and underhyped pass rushers in this year’s class.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Detroit Lions need pass rushers badly. The big question is how they will address that area of need. If they haven’t gotten a big name edge rusher by the time the draft rolls around and they address a different position with the eighth overall pick, I don’t think Lions fans should panic. There will be plenty of very good EDGE prospects available on Day 2, including one that I’ve come across recently that I believe is severely underrated. Alabama EDGE Christian Miller.

Christian Miller, LB/EDGE, Alabama

6-foot-3, 240 pounds

2015 stats: 1 game | 1 PD
2016 stats: 9 games | 5 solo tackles | 16 total | 2.5 TFL | 2 sacks
2017 stats: 4 games | 4 solo tackles | 6 total | 2 TFL | 1 sack
2018 stats: 14 games | 16 solo tackles | 34 total | 11 TFL | 8 sacks | 1 PD

Current draft projection: Day 2 or Day 3

Background

Team profile page

Miller’s college stats aren’t going to jump out at you, mostly because he wasn’t really given much of a chance to see the field until his junior year, and when finally given that chance he unfortunately suffered a torn bicep injury that kept him out for the rest of the season.

As a senior, he was still used sparingly,. He played around half of the total defensive snaps, but he used those small opportunities to really make a name for himself. Miller received recognition for his play and received a 2019 Senior Bowl invite, but could not attend due to a hamstring injury suffered during the Orange Bowl.

Strengths

  • Has good burst with long strides that allow him to consistently get hip-to-hip with tackles by his third step and win on the outside.
  • Sufficient dip and bend with decent ankle flexion. Does a solid job of turning the corner on speed rushes.
  • Displays heavy hands and will destroy TEs if you’re foolish enough to put one on him. Does a nice job with one-arm extension to drive blockers deep into the pocket.
  • Very disciplined vs. the run. Controls well at the point of attack and disengages cleanly at the right moment to consistently make a play on the ball carrier. Always under control with his body and exhibits good twitch and lateral agility in the open field.
  • Has a variety of moves that he can beat you with as a pass rusher. His club move appears to be his go-to, but can beat you in many other ways. Technique is very advanced for someone that lacks game experience.
  • Good athlete and should test well enough. Great closing speed when closing the gaps on QBs and RBs.
  • High IQ player with good mental processing; shoots the right gaps and is always there to make a play. Always has a plan when rushing the passer.

Weaknesses

  • Unexperienced resume and didn’t really get much of a chance to play until his senior season. Only played about half the teams snaps defensively as a RS senior.
  • Suffered multiple injuries during his last two years including torn biceps and hamstring injury.
  • Physicality sometimes inconsistent. Can sometimes mistake being disciplined for over-hesitating. Would like to see him attack more against the run.

Games watched: 2018 vs. Ole Miss, 2018 vs. Missouri, 2018 vs. Louisville, 2018 vs. Texas A&M, 2018 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Overview and Projection

If you ask me, Christian Miller is being severely underrated and I believe his stock is only going to rise from here. He shows very few weaknesses on tape, but the lack of game experience is concerning. Still, for a player that hasn’t played a ton of snaps throughout his collegiate career, he looks so far advanced from a technical standpoint compared to where you’d expect him to be.

Miller is at his best when rushing the passer and has a wide array of moves that he can beat you with. He has good burst with sufficient dip/bend to turn the corner, but he can also set those up and beat you inside if he catches you sleeping. Against the run, Miller is no slouch and his discipline and dominance at the point of attack leads me to believe that Patricia will love this kid for his scheme.

It’s also worth noting that Miller has had some experience working with current Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis during his tenure at Alabama.

At his current size, I believe Miller is best suited to play in a stand-up edge rushing role for the Lions, much like Devon Kennard was asked to do last year. I see Miller as a late-Day 1, early Day-2 talent. If the Lions can get him anywhere on Day 2 of the draft they would be getting an immediate contributor at one of their biggest areas of need.