Over the past few seasons, if a user wasn't hating on the play of quarterback Alex Smith, he was likely hating on the play of one of two other players. Those players were Nate Clements and Moran Norris. Clements got out of San Francisco, joining the Cincinnati Bengals, where he is not disliked immensely as well. Norris, on the other hand, remained in San Francisco and actually was the starter. He continued to be the most-disliked player on the 49ers, but eventually went down with an injury and gave way to rookie Bruce Miller.
So we'll look at Miller today, and see how he performed. It's worth noting that Miller wasn't Jim Harbaugh's first option for a fullback. It was pretty clear that he intended to draft Owen Marecic if given the opportunity, but the Cleveland Browns took him and the 49ers drafted Miller, a defensive end in college. On draft day, I was very excited because I knew a whole lot about Miller and love those particular position conversions.
Miller started and played very, very well. He caught the ball surprisingly well, and was a force as a blocker. His biggest asset was the leverage he learned as a defensive player. Miller wasn't the most athletic guy on the team, but he had the perfect upper body strength to get down low and come up under an offensive lineman to dislodge him. Now he uses that leverage against defensive players and it works wonders.
There are some who were calling for Miller to make the Pro Bowl this past season, and really, the only argument against it is the fact that he came in late and wasn't a huge impact player. I'm really expecting him to emerge as one of the league's best fullbacks, but he's still got a long way to go.
He's not perfect and makes some mistakes in regards to his assignments. To me, that's his biggest flaw right now - he doesn't always engage the right guy and isn't quite ready for the complex blocking schemes the 49ers like to use. Then again, all that he did in 2011 was without an offseason to really learn the position under the coaching staff. Future's so bright, gotta wear shades!