Miller: It would be nice to be in Carolina

Coming out of high school, Zach Miller was the consensus #1 TE prospect in the country. As a local Arizona product and a lifelong fan, Arizona State was the easy choice for college. However, he could end up playing as a pro on the other side of the Nation, in Carolina.

He went on to have an excellent collegiate career there and earned the nickname "The Truth" for living up to his billing. As a freshman, he caught 56 passes, followed that up with a disappointing 38 catches in a season limited by injury in '05, and then bounced back with a 50 catch junior season before declaring for the NFL draft. During this span, he had 14 games were he caught five or more passes and he is now second behind only Todd Heap at Arizona State for catches and touchdowns among TEs with 144 and 14, respectively. As a junior, he was a near consensus All-American at TE, making first or second team on lists by the Associated Press, Playboy, Walter Camp, ESPN, and the National Football Coaches Association. He was also among the three finalists for the John Mackey award, given to the nation's best TE.

Many people compare Miller to former Arizona State TE Todd Heap. It is a natural comparison, since they come from the same school and are of similar build. "Todd Heap is a great receiver, while I am more of a blocker," Miller told PantherInsider.com recently. Unlike most top TEs, Miller believes his blocking ability is his best asset. At Arizona State, he was used in many different ways. Miller believes that will help him in the NFL as he has already been exposed to most of the things that a TE will be asked to do in the NFL. In the Arizona State system, he "liked running double TE sets, H-back sets, moving around to create mismatches, and getting out and blocking on the edge." Most see Miller as the best edge blocking TE in this upcoming draft class, which is all the more important now with the influx of great speed rushing DEs.

Going into the combine, Miller and Miami's Greg Olsen were considered to be the best TEs available. Most saw Miller as the most complete prospect, while Olsen had more raw talent and higher upside. Olsen went on to run a 4.47 in the 40 yard dash while Miller struggled and posted a 4.87. That put vaulted Olsen into the top 20 on most analysts' draft boards and left Miller the odd man out. Miller said that the 4.87 was a fluke and that the "long days at the combine with tests and interviews" left him tired and mentally drained. The combine is often harder on juniors as they have not had a chance to go to invitational senior bowls where many prospects are able to do interviews with teams which then lightens their interview load at the combine. After running a 4.74 at his Pro Day, Miller has rebounded some and is considered by most to be a second round pick, with an outside chance to slip into the late first.

Miller sees himself as the best conventional TE in the draft. He feels he will "fit well in ever system, that he can block and receive – block in the trenches and then get out and catch the ball." He sees Olsen as "more of a receiver hybrid TE, while [he] is more traditional and can help in the run and the pass." The biggest knocks on Miller is his deep speed and his leaping ability. While Miller probably does not have the speed to stretch the seam in the NFL, a 4.74 was right about where he and most NFL teams expected him to run. He would've liked to run 4.7 flat, but a 4.74 probably neither helps nor hurts him. He was able to answer the leaping ability questions by posting a 34" vertical at the combine – an impressive number for a 6'5" 260 pound man.

TE has been a popular first day pick on mock drafts for the Panthers for years now. However, Dan Henning simply did not use the TE; he never had a TE who caught more than 30 balls in a season in his entire career. Some teams have a #2 TE catch 30 balls in today's NFL. Jeff Davidson, the new Panthers' offensive coordinator, is the former TE coach for the New England Patriots. I feel Miller compares most to former Patriot TE Daniel Graham. Both are great blockers who are solid receivers on short and mid-routes, but lack elite deep speed. If Davidson feels this way and can convince John Fox and Marty Hurney that he needs an upgrade at the TE position to make his offense work, it isn't out of the question that the Panthers would take Miller if he is still on the board when the Panthers make their second round choice. Whether he will be there or not is another question. It is obvious that the Panthers do have interest in Miller as the Panthers' TE coach Geep Chryst was at his Pro Day. It's tough to know what the Panthers' offensive scheme will look like next season, but a TE prospect has to feel comfortable that the new OC is a former TE coach. When asked about the prospects of playing for the Panthers, Miller says "my grandparents live in the area and I've visited several times; it would be nice to be in Carolina ."


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