With the 15th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected Kolton Miller, offensive tackle from UCLA. Oakland initially possessed the 10th pick, but traded down after San Francisco selected Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey ninth overall.
Miller played the 2016 season at right tackle, but switched to the left tackle spot for his 2017 junior season, protecting Cardinals’ top overall pick Josh Rosen’s blind side.
“Reggie and I have a lot of respect for this man’s athleticism,” said head coach Jon Gruden during Miller’s introductory press conference.
“He can pass protect, you can use him a lot of different ways. He can pull, he can redirect. He s got a huge upside at a position that’s very hard to find.”
Gruden then addressed Miller, sitting to his left: “In the AFC West right now, the people that you have to block, Kolton, hate to break it to you but they’re pretty good.”
Gruden continued: “He has a lot of versatility, he can play the left or right side, and he’s going to be a huge part of this team going forward.”
So let’s take a look at last season’s highlights from Miller, and we can break him down some more.
Miller is 6’9”, 309 pounds and he’s plenty strong, with 24 reps on the bench press at the combine. He’s very athletic, possessing above average athleticism for the tackle position. He is a road grader in the rush game, able to leverage his size to easily move defensive ends and outside linebackers out of the way and he can finish blocks.
On straight ahead runs, especially near the goal line, he can get very low and win with pad level, despite his height. He possesses the speed and quick footwork to recover quickly against a pass rusher who changes direction. Miller is able to block at the line and move to the second level to block a linebacker, a skill we have seen over and over again from Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele.
The negative aspects of Miller’s game come in pass protection. He isn’t as fluid as you would like to see in his motion and he isn’t consistent with his technique from play to play. Miller struggles against speed rushers with great bend, as he is tall and doesn’t always get himself in good position to direct a defender around the outside of the pocket.
He was dominant against lesser competition like Kansas State and Cal, but struggled against superior teams like Stanford and Washington. He tends to “catch” pass rushers instead of hitting them first and knocking them off balance.
That might work against Pac-12 competition, but Von Miller and Joey Bosa will knock him right back into Derek Carr’s lap if he tries that against them. It was a testament to Josh Rosen’s quick release and pocket presence that Miller did not allow more pressures and sacks. Watching Miller’s tape, you get a sense of how good Rosen really is in the pocket. The Cardinals got a real gem.
Miller has all the physical traits one looks for when evaluating an offensive lineman. He is big and strong with good feet and he has a good grasp of blocking angles and how to attack the next level in the run game to give the ball-carrier the best chance to make a big play. He can be up and down with consistency but never with effort. He is equally proficient from the right or left tackle spots. I don’t feel that he has any technical flaws in his game that can’t be fixed with coaching, and he was pretty darn good even considering his issues in pass protection.
He simply needs to drop anchor sooner and start using his hands to attack the defender first instead of letting them get close, and get a better handle on how to redirect speed rushers.
He will be facing several good ones in practice every day with Mack, Irvin and Arden Key, not to mention his friend and former teammate Eddie Vanderdoes. Miller will either improve quickly or be exposed immediately, but he has a good work ethic and is a bright young man so I expect the former.
Fit with Raiders
Miller is good enough to start right away at right tackle and eventually take over on the left side for Donald Penn. I don’t think he is far behind McGlinchey and I think he’s better than Austin Corbett, who went to the Browns at the top of Round 2.
Perhaps the Raiders didn’t get great value for their draft spot, but they did get a very good player. Jon Gruden wants to run the ball a lot, and Miller is going to dominate in that aspect of the offense. Many times draft pundits and fans don’t consider scheme fit or organizational philosophy when evaluating draft picks or mocking the draft, but Miller is an excellent fit for what Jon Gruden wants to do with the Raiders.
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