Perhaps it shouldn't have come to anyone's surprise when the No. 1 ranked high school tight end in the nation passed on some of the most elite football programs in the nation to play for his home-state team. When Zach Miller decided to play for the Arizona State Sun Devils, the program new they had landed themselves a gem.
Born and raised in Arizona, Miller shone against the competition at the high school level on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He also excelled where it counts most, in the classroom. Earning a 4.0 GPA solidified Miller, not only as an athletic all-star, but also as an academic all-star.
As a freshman for the Sun Devils, Miller contributed immediately, starting all 12 games and breaking almost every freshman record for an Arizona State offensive player. Not even Todd Heap's single-season catch record for a tight end would stand after the 2004 season had come to a close. For Miller, the accolades weren't anything new, but the scale was much larger. In 2004, Miller was voted the Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year.
As a sophomore, Miller started right where he left off. Only two years into his college career, teams had learned that they had to game plan for Miller, who created matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coaches. That being said, Miller's production did not diminish. His 2005 season was highlighted by a 10-catch, 98-yard and one-touchdown performance against Washington State. During his sophomore season, Miller missed two games due to injury; otherwise, his statistics would have most likely been right in line with the numbers he posted in his freshman campaign.
When the 2006 season rolled around, Miller was widely considered to be the top tight end in the nation for the second time in his life. He did not disappoint, again putting up consistent numbers against some of the top competition that the Sun Devils faced. When the season came to a close, Miller had avoided injury, cementing himself as the best tight end in the Pac-10, and arguably the best tight end in the country. For a player with that kind of track record, the question undoubtedly arose."What more do I have to prove at this level?"
Miller's decision to declare for the NFL Draft did not come as a surprise to many, and in the end it will likely prove to be the wisest decision. With only one tight end, Miami Hurricanes' Greg Olsen ranked ahead of him, Miller will undoubtedly go on the first day of the NFL draft.
Miller has never had elite speed and has not relied on his ability to run faster than his opponents to put up the numbers that he did in college. Instead, Miller is a smart player who knows how to play within his game. At 6-foot-5, 256 pounds, Miller knows how to use his body and put himself in a position to come down with the ball.
Miller has proven in the classroom as well as on the field that he is an intelligent player and a student of the game. As a smart player, Miller has refined his skills as a route runner. With his knowledge of the game and his amazing hands, Miller could easily wind up becoming a large contributor for a team in need of a tight end to open up the middle of the field.
Running slower than most scouts would like to see, Miller's 4.72 40 time will scare off some times. That was his time from his Pro Day, which was considerably faster than the 4.87 time he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Short of his speed needing some improvement, few weaknesses are present for Miller. He must learn to be a better blocker and could stand to improve his lower body strength to a degree. His leaping ability isn't as great as it should be, but at 6-foot-5 leaping ability isn't a huge need.
Expect Miller to be drafted sometime in the second round. With the ever-growing emphasis that is being placed on character players and smart players, Miller's ultimate draft position could be higher than anticipated, but it would be a surprise to see him land in the first round. Ultimately, whatever team drafts Miller will be drafting a hard-working player who will likely be able to contribute immediately. Miller's game most closely resembles Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap. While he won't dominate the game with his physical abilities, if the ball comes his way, he's in all likelihood going to catch it.
Teams in need of a tight end in the second round could include the Chicago Bears (No. 37), Miami Dolphins (No. 40), Carolina Panthers (No. 45) and the Green Bay Packers (No. 47).
When April 28 rolls around, one can be sure that Miller will be with his family eagerly anticipating what team is going to be landing this product of Arizona State.