Prospect Spotlight: Von Miller

When you think of 3-4 defenses, the first thing that comes to mind is "pass rush." Some of the best pass rushers in the NFL play in a 3-4 defense; DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs, Clay Matthews and LaMarr Woodley, just to name a few. In order for the 3-4 defense to be effective, the outisde linebackers need to be able to pressure the quarterback.

However, an effective rush from the edge has been a missing piece in the Browns 3-4 defense for some time now. After recording an eleven sack season in his rookie year, Kamerion Wimbley was expected to be the guy to provide that outside rush for the Browns. In his next three seasons, Wimbley's play began to fizzle out as he recorded a total of only 15.5 sacks over that time period, which is an average of just over five sacks per season. Wimlbley was subsequently traded to Oakland where's he's recorded two sacks in his first three games as a Raider.

The outside linebacker of a 3-4 defense is a unique position. The ideal prospect possesses the speed and technique to rush the passer, the strength to set the edge against the run and the athleticism to run with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Indeed, the 3-4 outside linebacker is a rare athlete and players with the necessary skill set are highly coveted in the NFL Draft.

Most current 3-4 outside linebackers played defensive end at the collegiate level and made the transition once in the NFL. Many of these players were able to show their athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine where they participate in not only the defensive line drills, but also the linebacker drills. This allows scouts to see if a defensive end prospect has the footwork and fluid hips needed to drop into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. This is often the first opportunity for a scout to see if these prospects have the ability to make the transition.

There are, however, some prospects that are lucky enough to play in a 3-4 defense at the college level. Von Miller of Texas A&M is one of those players, and he might be the best "pure" 3-4 outside linebacker prospect eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft. If the Browns are looking to increase their outside pass rush, Miller is a player that their scouts will be examining closely.

At 6'3", 243 lbs, Miller is only slightly undersized for the position. However, what he lacks in height in bulk, he makes up for in quickness. Miller led the nation in 2009 with seventeen sacks, so he knows how to get to the quarterback. He does an excellent job at anticipating the snap and has a great burst around the edge. Miller is a fundamentally sound tackler and effectively uses his hands when engaged with the blocker.

Miller will more than likely start his career as a situational pass rusher until he further develops his game as a linebacker. He's been known to bite on misdirection plays and doesn't always immediately recognize screen passes. Miller will need to further develop his awareness and football IQ in order to be an every down linebacker. However, pass rushers are coveted in the NFL, especially those that can play the 3-4 outside linebacker position. Based on that alone, Miller could see a significant bump in his draft stock that other pass rushers may not.

During the first game of the 2010 season, Miller suffered a sprained ankle and hasn't been able to produce at the level he did in 2009. However, the season is still young, so Miller has some time to get healthy and get back to form. Unless the injury continues to linger and causes problems for Miller during the testing process, he's expected to be a late first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

If the Browns are interested in Miller, the injury could actually help their cause. If he drops slightly in the draft, Cleveland could have a shot at Miller in the second round, allowing them to to address another area of concern in the first round. Either way, Miller is exactly the type of player the Browns need to better their outside pass rush.

In addition to being the Draft Expert for The OBR, Will is also the founder of Draft Breakdown. You can follow Will on Twitter @DraftBreakdown.


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