The Carolina Panthers selected Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and with the second overall pick, the Denver Broncos have selected Von Miller, linebacker from Texas A&M.
Though Marcell Dareus had been the consensus pick by draft analysts in the weeks leading up to the draft, it seemed like Miller gathered some momentum in the last few days with Adam Schefter reporting on Tuesday that the Broncos would take Miller second overall, and Kara Henderson reporting from Dove Valley for NFL Network that the Broncos draft room was torn on the pick between Miller and Dareus.
Though Miller is regarded as a natural pass rusher in a 3-4 front, he showed he has the skills to become an outside linebacker in a 4-3 front with his performance at the Senior Bowl. Playing as a hybrid defensive end – outside linebacker at Texas A&M (a position they called the 'joker'), it is hard for scouts to judge his true potential in a 4-3 system, but with his speed and athleticism he will likely be able to make the transition. He gives head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen a versatile weapon to create dynamic plays to use his pass rush skills to full strengths.
Scouts rave about Miller's high motor and his tendency to never give up on plays. Miller, who won the 2010 Butkus Award for best linebacker in the country, is elite at shedding blockers with his hands and he is relentless in his pursuit. He led the country with 17 sacks during his junior season.
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“Von, he’s a guy that when you turn on the film you don’t even have to know what number he is,” Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway said of Miller in the weeks before the draft. “That’s how dynamic he is, and he’s a guy that’s all over the field.”
Tim DeRuyter, who spent 3 years as the defensive coordinator at Air Force before becoming the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2010, found in Miller the key player to turn around the Aggies' struggling defense: “He is freakish as far as his athleticism, he’s the quickest player I’ve ever seen when he runs those first 10 yards. Violent with his hands, and he gets to the quarterback in a bad frame of mind.” He also mentioned Miller's personality as lifting a defense and great in the locker room.
Von Miller is a smart a dedicated young man, and he can hopefully become the front seven leader that the Broncos have been missing the last few seasons. With a weak linebacker class and a lot of defensive line prospects in the later rounds, Denver found themselves an impact player who can come in an contribute to lift the Broncos defense from its struggles these past years.