Kolton Miller spits in the eye of the best player available (BPA) draft mantra. Draft pundits collectively gasped when the then-Oakland Raiders made the offensive tackle out of UCLA the No. 15 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Panned as a reach and widely identified as not the best player available when the Raiders were on the clock, Miller’s rocky rookie season didn’t help matters. Of course, that was because injuries effectively made Miller a rookie left tackle playing on one leg, but the no-mercy NFL world didn’t care. He was the 15th overall pick and he wasn’t living up to expectations.
But Miller is a classic example of how a team’s belief in a player and coaching them up is vital to a first-round pick — or any draft selection or player acquisition, for that matter. The team didn’t waver in it’s belief; didn’t hinder Miller from continuing to play and gain valuable NFL snaps his inaugural season. They allowed him the growing pains.
Not only that, Miller showed the mental and physical grit to play despite being hobbled his rookie year. In his second season, the Raiders did well to partner him up with left guard Richie Incognito. The enigmatic mauler gave Miller a role model on how to be a brute in the trenches. That willingness is equally integral to Miller’s development into a stalwart anchor on the blindside. He showed the ability to fight through and learn. Without that trait, coupled with the coaching and in-game support of Incognito, no way do the Raiders get the left tackle Miller is now.
The Roseville, Calif. native’s ascension into a stout presence at left tackle earned him a three-year, $54 million contract extension in March of 2021. Now in his fifth year the 26-year-old Miller is no longer a question mark. He’s a definitive answer out on the blindside, even when there’s uncertainty at other spots on the Raiders offensive line.
“I mean, there’s a lot of distractions outside the building, but really, we want to keep as together as we can, keep all the noise in here,” Miller said when asked about the Raiders O-line expectations and how the group is perceived in the media and on social media. “We like to set our own expectations and try to exceed that. Really, it starts internally, at least for me and I know for a lot of us. Of course, you hear it. You see it and you can’t always ignore it. But I feel as a group we set our own expectations and we strive to achieve them each day.
“We still have a growing group this year and guys competing to try to get a spot. So, it’s just a mindset each day to work your ass off and compete as much as you can and push the guys across from you and it will make us better because of it.”
Miller went on to talk about how the Josh McDaniels’ coaching staff is emphasizing accountability from the team and that translates into the higher standard being installed at Raiders HQ. That’s usually meant running a lap during training camp and there’s no griping from players.
“Yeah, we want to eliminate self-inflicted penalties. So, we try to really focus in for our own accountability. If we have an issue, then we take a lap,” Miller said. “We don’t say anything, it’s just next man up. We don’t stop practice and we just got to hold each other to a higher standard. So, that’s how we’re trying to execute that.”
Miller is now Mr. Reliable and an unquestioned starter and leader on the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line. He now plays the role of mentor and role model. Where other spots may be influx — namely right tackle and on the interior at right guard — beating out Miller isn’t going to happen. He’s refined his game to become a consistent wall protecting the blindside of quarterback Derek Carr. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF) charting, Miller allowed four sacks and was flagged five times for penalties in 2021. He’ll be counted to keep Carr upright this season and even though the 6-foot-8, 325-pounder isn’t highly-ranked by PFF, No. 23 of 32 offensive tackles the group ranked, Miller gets the job done.