Dee Milliner boosts draft stock by showing off his speed
The overarching concern about Alabama CB Dee Milliner's game heading into the NFL's scouting combine was that he did not possess top-end speed.
Milliner set an early standard during Tuesday's workouts with (unofficial) 4.31 and 4.37 times in the 40-yard-dash. A 4.31 mark, should it stand once official numbers are released, would be the second-best mark at the combine, just four hundredths of a second off the time run by Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin.
Only three other defensive backs in Tuesday's early group clocked in under 4.4 seconds: Dwayne Gratz (4.35), Brandon McGee (4.38) and David Amerson (4.38). Milliner's run also blazed past that of Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks, believed to be a potential first-round pick himself -- Banks posted an unofficial 4.58.
Where Milliner did stumble was in some of the positional drills. He dropped several passes during those workouts, including multiple balls that hit him right in the hands. That certainly was a concerning development, though it's worth pointing out that Milliner is set to undergo surgery for a torn labrum on March 12, so he's far from 100 percent.
Milliner had just two interceptions for Alabama during the 2012 season, compared to 21 pass break-ups. Even more so based on Tuesday's issues, teams will have to determine to what extent his hands contributed to that lack of forced turnovers.
But a negative mark in that column likely will not outweigh the elite speed Milliner put on display in Indianapolis. Though his drops are troublesome, there is no question that he's capable of making plays on the football. Confirming for the NFL world that he has the wheels to pair with his instincts could drive him into the draft's top-five picks.
Sitting there with the No. 5 selection is a Detroit team that's desperately in need of help in the secondary, too -- especially if Chris Houston departs via free agency. SI's Peter King had this to say about the possibility of a Milliner-to-Detroit scenario on Monday, several hours before Milliner torched the Lucas Oil Stadium turf in the 40:
If you want the draft's top CB, Dee Milliner, you'll probably have to trade ahead of Detroit at 5 to get him.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 25, 2013
The Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders and Eagles pick ahead of Detroit (in that order). Any of those teams could consider Milliner themselves or use the cornerback as trade bait. Milliner's recovery from that pending shoulder surgery will be closely watched by NFL teams in the weeks to follow. His draft stock, though, should be in excellent shape as he goes under the knife.