Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The reports of the fullback's death in the NFL are greatly exaggerated. Or at least, they are when it comes to the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman utilize a power-running offense, which might change slightly with the strong group of receivers lined up, but it relies heavily on a fullback.
Bruce Miller has been that fullback since the 49ers nabbed him in 2011 NFL Draft. When they took him, I knew they were getting someone who could play the position well, even if he was a defensive line convert. I liked his ability to utilize leverage, and immediately knew it would be put to use upending defensive players to spring Frank Gore for big gains.
I'm pointing this out because I'm wrong a lot and I need people to know that I occasionally get things right.
Miller has been an exceptional blocker in both pass and run protection. I'm not sure what the exact grades PFF is giving out for him these days, but if it indicates anything less than "this guy is really good at pretty much everything," then I think they're wrong.
When it comes to producing in the passing or running game, Miller is capable but the 49ers don't go to him much. He had just seven carries last season, though he did managed 25 receptions for 243 yards in the passing game. That includes a 43-yard reception against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There's not a whole lot to say about Miller's season from a blocking standpoint. His biggest flaw is the occasional missed block, because you rarely ever see him get beat outright. If a play ends and Miller is at fault for a loss of yardage of some kind, he probably made a mental error rather than a physical one.
Why he might improve:
Miller is 26 years old and will be 27 when next season gets underway. He's entering his fourth year in the NFL and he's essentially in his prime. Just about everyone expects him to improve, and he probably will be. All of this comes down to him simply refining his game, because he has no major strides to make in any particular facet of the way he plays. There's probably a Pro Bowl in his future.
Why he might regress:
Soon, the 49ers will have a new starting running back. Frank Gore can't do it forever, and maybe Miller just doesn't mesh with the new guy as well. Whether that's Carlos Hyde, Marcus Lattimore or someone else is anybody's guess. Miller wouldn't be the first fullback who simply looked worse depending on who he was blocking. Scheme-wise, I can't see much other than him potentially getting less playing time as the 49ers go with more three-wide sets thanks to an improved group of receivers.
Odds of making the roster:
He'll be on the roster and he'll be the starting fullback. That's 100 percent. Unless aliens.