Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
At the beginning of the 2015 season, the San Francisco 49ers had one of the deepest rosters at tight end in the league. By the end of the season after trades and attrition due to injury, the group had significantly less depth. The 49ers then hire Chip Kelly as their new head coach, a man who’s scheme is usually void of a fullback. Add all of that together and what is the next logical step? Move fullback Bruce Miller to TE.
This is not the first time that Miller has changed positions. The defensive end from UCF, moved to FB when he entered the league. His time on both sides of the ball give him a good grasp of what he needs to do to carve out a spot for himself on the field.
Experience: 5 accrued seasons
Miller signed a three year extension in 2014. The extension was worth $5.4 million with $2.431 million fully guaranteed. He has $160,000 in per game active roster bonuses through the life of the contract and $200,000 incentives for being selected to the Pro Bowl. His remaining base salaries are $1,250,000 (2016), and $1,450,000 (2017).
Why he should should improve:
Miller is a versatile player who has already shown his adaptability. He was very productive during OTAs but had a slightly more challenged minicamp with a few uncharacteristic drops. Miller has been known for his steady production and good hands and it’s most likely that he was just concentrating on his new role including different routes. Once the scheme becomes second nature, his production should rise.
Although Kelly is not known for using a fullback, he does see Miller as a highly skilled player that likely can contribute on the field. On the contrary, Kelly is very fond of TE use in his game plan, just look at the production of Eagles TE Brent Celek, brother of 49ers TE Garrett Celek.
Although Miller’s time on the field was inexplicably reduced in 2015 and the height of his production was back in 2013 when he recorded 25 receptions for 243 yards, there is potential for his production to rise, especially when considering the youth of the team.
Why 2016 could be a challenge:
Being in a new position in a new scheme is a huge challenge for most players. The TE roster already includes Vance McDonald, the recently extended Celek, another converted TE Blake Bell, Je’Ron Hamm and Busta Anderson.
McDonald and Celek, prior to Celek’s injury, did see the field more after the departure of long time 49er TE Vernon Davis, although neither have had near the productivity of the older Celek, or Davis in or around his prime. Bell also had a decent showing in the latter half of the season. Miller will have to show he can outperform the returning TE group after spending most of his time with the 49ers as the one and only true FB.
Odds of making the roster:
Even though Kelly’s scheme doesn’t use a literal FB, Bruce Miller is one of those hard working, solid players that will definitely be on the roster in 2016. His contribution to special teams play makes him a valuable member of the team as well as his willingness to do whatever it takes to earn his spot on the field.