We all knew that the 49ers were most likely going to draft a full back in the late rounds of this April's draft. Little did we know that they planned on converting an extremely talented and productive defensive player into a full back.
Bruce Miller had nearly 200 tackles, had 35.5 sacks, forced 3 fumbles and had 3 picks as a full-time four year starter for Central Florida. What is more than that is the fact that Miller had 12.5 sacks in 12 career games against BCS conference opponents. This means that did not rack up those sacks against lower level competition. Instead, Miller came to play against some of the best competition that college football has to offer.
After the jump I am going to take a look at a scouting report on Bruce Miller, some pre-draft projection on where he was going to be selected and my thoughts on his strengths and weaknesses. Additionally I am going to give my opinion on where Bruce Miller should play in 2011 and moving forward.
Positives: Tremendous production in his four-year career (34.5 sacks, three interceptions, six forced fumbles), recorded two sacks in Liberty Bowl victory against Georgia... Very versatile talent, has the size and pass-rushing skills to play DE or OLB depending on the scheme... Has an extremely strong upper body, has recorded 42 reps at 225 lbs. on the bench press, maxed out at 520 lbs... Has a very high motor, plays extremely hard and does not give up on plays, second effort in pass-rushing situations is very impressive. Is a very heady player, maintains responsibilities and makes big plays in the process... Has a very high ceiling because of great work ethic and high motor, will find a place in the NFL.
Negatives: Speed is below average, but adequate for the DE position, needs to show a little more speed to be a full-time 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Plays the run well, but is not polished enough to be an all-around linebacker at the next level, does not have quite enough experience dropping into coverage... Does not have elite agility, looks a little stiff at times when wading through traffic.
This was a pretty darn positive scouting report if you ask me. It seems that Side Line Scouting is extremely friendly to the skills that Miller possesses. The fact that he can play both defensive end and outside linebacker is an important factor in terms of giving the 49ers more flexibility in the reserves situation.
What surprised me the most in watching tapes of Miller's college games at UCF was the fact that he was around the ball a lot. You heard his name called and saw his number on the majority of defensive plays. Additionally, he is extremely strong and has the ability to pull rush opposing offensive linemen.
Picking in the 7th round, I don't think the 49ers were looking for a full time outside linebacker. They need to add talented depth players at nearly every single position, and that is what Miller should bring.
That said, the 49ers will attempt to convert Miller to full back, and that makes absolutely no sense to me. A player that hasn't played that position will have a difficult transition from the defensive side of the ball.
Anyone saying that the selection of Miller in the7th round was a reach is incredibly mistaken. I think the issue arises in the fact that the 49ers plan to move him to full back.
He has the size and athletic ability to contribute on the defensive size of the ball immediately. He could replace Travis LaBoy in the 3-4 pass rusher specialist and move to end on occasion. Bruce Miller started nearly ever game of his career at Central Florida and is seasoned enough to make the transition to the NFL.
Synopsis: I think the 49ers would be well served to give Miller the opportunity to play defense as well as helping him learn the full back position. It is obvious that Baalke and Harbaugh see something in Bruce Miller in regards to the offensive backfield. He does have the upper body strength, physical brute, athletic ability and competitiveness to play full back. It is just going to be incredibly hard for him to make any sort of impact at that position as a rookie in 2011.
The 49ers would be better served to allow Miller to play the defensive side of the ball as a rookie and groom him as a project at full back moving forward.
Miller's career at Central Florida and his ability show me that he will make an immediate impact as a rotational player in the front seven. There is no doubt in my mind that San Francisco has something more planned for Bruce Miller moving forward. If not, this could be seen not only as a reach but as a wasted pick. Especially, with all the other full time FB prospects that were available in the 7th round.