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Draft Duel: David Wilson vs. Lamar Miller

This year holds no secrets as to who will be the first running back off the board.  Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who has been compared by many experts to be the best back since Adrian Peterson, is the clear choice.  I am on record as not sharing the view that Richardson is “elite,” but without a doubt, he’s is in a class by himself in 2012 and will be first off the board.  Battling for second running back honors are likely Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Miami’s Lamar Miller.

If you’re sitting with picks 1.04 through 1.06, there’s a good chance you’re going to get a shot at one of these young backs.  Boise State’s Doug Martin looks promising as well and fans here will likely argue this should be a three-way duel.  I’m not of that mindset myself, but I don’t disagree that Martin is an intriguing prospect.

David Wilson
Virginia Tech 

5’10″/206/4.49
Age:  20 (6/15/91)

[vsw id=”J1bO123KOEM” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

While the first minute of the above highlight reel is beautifully awkward, what follows is a display of just how much there is to like about David Wilson.

First, he possesses near-elite balance within his foundation, below the hips.  One of the primary factors I look for in difference-making backs in the NFL is the trait of what I call “swivel.”  I like to see running backs whose legs appear to swivel below or detach from the hips.  This trait allows for yardage, often times significant, after first contact or off glancing blows from defenders not squaring up.  Wilson displays this in spades.

He also has a very effective side-step and natural lateral mobility, without the wasted movement that can turn it into lost yardage or indecision.  Wilson shows confidence in where his lanes are going to form and effortlessly slides to the lane to avoid traffic.  Once there, he has the burst into the secondary and gets to top speed quickly.  Much quicker than he is fast, Wilson is capable, once in the secondary, of making defenders miss and getting to the sideline for further yardage.

Not overly adept in the passing game, he shows enough capability to develop into a threat in the flat.  He’s able to display sufficient skill to catch on the move and uses his acceleration to, again, reach top speed quickly.  As with most rookies, he has work to do in pass protection and his size, as used in his rushing game, could be used against him.  His development in this area will be the key to him remaining on the field in clear pass protection down and distance situations.

Wilson tends to run a bit undisciplined at times and puts far too many balls on the ground.  In the NFL, ball security issues will find a young player on the bench very quickly.  And once on the bench, anything can happen.  Wilson hasn’t yet shown the ability to properly secure the ball and the challenge in the NFL will be much more difficult.

Lastly, Wilson’s long speed is a bit in question and is evident on his highlight video above.  While his agility dynamic that serves to break him into the secondary in undeniable, once there he is often tracked down from behind or can’t outrun defenders with a closing angle.  This doesn’t eliminate Wilson from discussion as the second back off the board, but it could limit his upside potential at the next level.

As seen in his stat box below, Wilson was never a touchdown machine at Tech and I believe this does limit his upside in the NFL.  However, with significant upside at only 20 years old, a potentially long career is also possible.

SEASON ATT YDS AVG LNG TD REC YDS AVG LNG TD
2011 290 1709 5.9 57 9 22 129 5.9 15 1
2010 113 619 5.5 68 5 15 234 15.6 65 4
2009 59 334 5.7 51 4 0 0 0.0 0 0


Lamar Miller
Miami
5’11″/212/4.40
Age:   20 (4/25/91)

[vsw id=”f7dxPzUBoi4″ source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Also at 20 years of age, Lamar Miller brings a distinctly different package to the NFL than does his “Draft Duel” partner, David Wilson.

Miller has the prototypical size I like to see in my running backs.  In my years of research and analysis, I desire backs to stand at 5’11” and weigh in at 217 lbs.  Beggars can’t be choosers here with Miller as he’ll certainly add weight once within a strength training regimen of the NFL.  Running a 4.40 in the forty was a pleasant surprise as I expected a mid 4.40 forty from tape I had watched.

Looking at Miller’s game, it’s an easy task to project him to the NFL level.  He squares his shoulders early and often and has virtually no wasted movement in his approach to the line of scrimmage.  His vision doesn’t appear to be elite, but is certainly passable when combined with his size and speed dynamic.  Not containing the hip swivel or balance of Wilson, Miller won’t often create drawn out, dynamic runs with multiple cutbacks.

Miller’s primary positive attributes are his size and speed.  Once into the lane and into secondary space, he’s got the body and speed to quickly put defenders in a trailing position.  Once there, Miller’s legitimate 4.40 speed is on display as he’s rarely caught from behind.  Would be front side tacklers better have help quickly as Miller’s strength and leg drive will make for many yards after contact.  He runs with a great body lean and while often times he’s high coming through the line, he shows the ability to lower his pads.

Like Wilson, Miller didn’t excel in the passing game, but shows soft hands for a back of his size, as well as the ability to track and catch the ball fluidly.  He’s a bit stiff in pass protection, but is willing.  His size would allow for third down duty should he develop into a capable protection player.  Also like Wilson, Miller wasn’t a prolific scorer but, unlike Wilson, I believe he has the NFL skill set and body to take advantage of a capable NFL offensive line and score at a level beyond his college production.

Miller’s relatively short stint at Miami is detailed below and he’s yet to be a workhorse at any level.  Regardless of his NFL drafted situation, conditioning and getting beyond the rookie wall will be primary early hurdles.

SEASON ATT YDS AVG LNG TD REC YDS AVG LNG TD
2011 227 1272 5.6 79 9 17 85 5.0 16 1
2010 108 646 6.0 47 6 11 96 8.7 28 0


Summary

Even experts can’t seem to agree.  Wilson garners a lot of confidence and Miller seemingly just as much.  Look even deeper and Boise State’s Doug Martin also enters the conversation of “next off the board” after Trent Richardson.

To me, it’s not that close.

I’ve watched numerous tape on both runners and for my money, Lamar Miller stands head and shoulders above Wilson.  Wilson’s speed and agility dynamic are intriguing to me, but the NFL is flush with agile and elusive runners who quickly become role players.  With a game that is devaluing the running back position at an ever-quickening pace, I continue to turn my attention to backs who have what it takes to perform the primary function of an NFL rushing attack – physical, between the tackles running, with the speed to get outside when needed.  Ball security, yards after contact, pass protection and the ability to move defenders backward are what keeps running backs on the field.

When I watch Lamar Miller run, I immediately see NFL potential.  I don’t think electric, gimmicky or elusive.  I think efficient, powerful and fast.  When I mix in the potential fantasy relevance of Miller’s game, I see a back with a game similar to Arian Foster. In the right offense, Miller going to develop into a very capable every down potential back.

There’s no question that both backs, being as young as they are, have enormous potential. For me, the choice is clear – Lamar Miller wins this duel.

Jeff Haverlack
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kn1v3s0ut
10 years ago

Great info here, thank you.

Albert
10 years ago

I too like Miller over Wilson simply because Miller has the skill set to be a game-breaker… BUT, I truly believe he has to land in a zone run blocking team just like Foster to be successful. If drafted to a power run team, I think Miller will struggle. With that said, I have yet to decide who the 2nd best back fantasy football back in this years draft is… Landing spot is very crucial.

Ray
10 years ago

For my money #2 rb is Martin. Although think there is good chance Miller goes first to Cincy , Martin to Green Bay and Wilson to Detroit to replace poor Best who can’t shake concussions. Of course I could be completely wrong : )

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Ray
10 years ago

Your guess is as good as any. I put more about my belief in Martin a couple of comments below.

Dan
10 years ago

Why is richardson not going to be elite in your opinion? He ran a 4.43 and has as much power as anyone. I think he will be in the rice mold and rice is elite.

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

I’ve watched as many carries as I can with Trich and he’s a very good back. But he’s not elite in my mind because he doesn’t have the phone booth agility that I’ve seen with other great backs, nor does he have the ability to create a lot of yards when the play breaks down or the line blocking isn’t there.

He leaves a lot of yards on the field too often for my taste. In the NFL, those yards are all going to be tough and he hasn’t shown me the ability to create on his own like a Peterson or McFadden could. I don’t think he’s in that class at all.

But, he is fast, he’s strong and he’s a very likable player with a great motor and he deserves to be a very high pick with great potential. In the right system I think he could be special. But if he goes to a poor offensive line or system, I’ll be concerned until he proves otherwise.

Dan
Reply to  DLF_Jeff
10 years ago

Thanks for the info and replying back to me. I have the first pick and am taking him. I just wanted to know what you thought. That is an awesome website!

Greg G.
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

That being said, would you still rank him above 75 percent of the backs in the league in their first seasons? It is looking more and more like he’s headed to Tampa. I, like you, am hesitant to annoint him the next Adrian Peterson. But guys like Ray Rice, Lesean McCoy, and Matthew Ryans are excellent backs. Is it safe to place him there?

Greg G.
Reply to  Greg G.
10 years ago

Thought that was strange…Ryan Mathews. Brain fart!!!!

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Greg G.
10 years ago

I think he’s better coming out than Rice, McCoy and Mathews … but it’s how he does in the NFL that counts.

Eric
10 years ago

Good analysis, but you should have made this a three way. Martin is the No. 2 back on enough boards to warrant inclusion in the discussion.

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Eric
10 years ago

Three way duels are too “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” for my taste.

In all seriousness though, I don’t see Doug Martin on the same level of Lamar Miller in the way of talent nor do I think he’s David Miller. He’s clearly the 4th RB in my mind.

Don’t forget that he played at Boise St. against such teams as Toledo, Tulsa, Nevada, etc. etc. He did play Georgia but averaged 2.4 ypc.

I like Martin well enough as a downhill runner without a lot of agility and he’s going to have a chance to be good, but I don’t think he’s at the level of the other two.

Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

I hate ACC running backs. Look at the top 20 running backs right now. Who do you have from the ACC? Frank Gore….and thats it.

I’m in Virginia, so i pay attention to Tech football. Over the years, you’ve had guys like Ryan Williams, Darren Evans, Branden Ore, Kevin Smith, Lee Suggs, etc. None have these guys have developed. I just can’t help but see David Wilson as the next one who doesn’t pan out.

#cynical

Josh G
Reply to  Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

I have to agree..and being from the Pacific NW, I am biased toward the Pac-12, but in terms of RBs..gotta go with the SEC for the most part…though oddly enough, many of these are inury-prone players and/or havent lived up to the hype as of yet!

Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis, Joseph Addai, Felix Jones, Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Mark Ingram, Knowshon Moreno, Earnest Graham, Stevan Ridley, Jerious Norwood, BGE, Dexter McCluster, Montario Hardesty….likely more but I cannot think of any.

clarion contrarion
Reply to  Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

cedric humes also drafted but never an nfl carry

Sensei_John_Kreese
Reply to  clarion contrarion
10 years ago

As well as Thomas Dale High School’s Ken Oxendine

shout out for the alma mater

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

You go John. 🙂

tebow
10 years ago

its all about the landing spots. pitt,jets,cincy,giants,clev and the broncos are all going to be primo landing to get some touches. what if chris polk lands to the steelers in the 2nd round? i would have to think about him a lot higher than i would have before. what about an article with top ten situations that an rb can land?

clarion contrarion
Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

that sounds like a great idea and maybe a wr page also
great way to feed the jones with still 3 + weeks until the draft . this is my favorite site.

Luke
10 years ago

Sensei, Lamar Miller is from the ACC as well. Does that affect your opinion of him?

Great article Jeff. I saw Greg Cosell say over the weekend that he thought of Miller as purely a zone scheme runner. Would you agree or disagree with this?

Sensei_John_Kreese
Reply to  Luke
10 years ago

Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, Portis, Mcgahee

Miami is the only ACC school that gets a pass.

Clearly, in my mind, Miller is the superior talent.

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Luke
10 years ago

Thanks Luke. I would mostly agree that he’s a zone scheme back, but I wouldn’t say ONLY a zone scheme runner. He’s got enough speed to get to the outside and I really think he has enough agility and dynamic for a man scheme too. But I would agree with that primary assessment. He’s a downhill runner with decent discipline and there’s nothing wrong with being a good zone block runner.

Cyrus
10 years ago

Seeing a blurb on Rotoworld about Wilson having 9 fumbles credited to him this year has me concerned.

Ball security is just as important as running between the tackles.

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Cyrus
10 years ago

He’s very undisciplined in how he carries and protects the ball. That has me concerned more than anything. That and the fact that he’s not a great blocker and seems well away from being one.

Josh G
10 years ago

Curious where Montee Ball would have ranked should he have declared?

Number 2 rb?

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Josh G
10 years ago

Probably third after Miller. I’m higher on Ball than most experts are. But he has a HUGE offensive line, something like the 6th largest in College AND the NFL. He’s a zone scheme runner for sure and is a bit stiff in the hips for my taste, but I like his heart and his motor.

Looking for another great year out of him and then we’ll take a look at him much closer.

Detroitcity
10 years ago

I think David Wilson is comparable to Jamaal Charles, however Wilson is more elusive than Charles (between Charles and Mccoy somewhere) and Charles was a better receiver out of the backfield.. same ball security issues coming out

I think Lamar Miller is a Felix Jones clone and for that reason I dont like him for more than a change of pace/ split carries limited role. I think Miller plays faster than Jones, but Jones had better vision and wasnt quite as easy to take down at initial contact (close though). I do agree that Miller is much better suited for a zone blocking scheme and could be very success in a scheme like that if he can handle the load

I struggle to find an equal comparision for Doug Martin but I like his skill set and think it will translate well in the NFL… while I dont think he has superstar quality, I think he will likely be the most productive fantasy back of these 3 short term

Krcil
Reply to  Detroitcity
10 years ago

Since I think we are the only two here that like Wilson over Miller I figured I better speak up and say I agree with you.

Like Jeff did state, the balance that Wilson has is on the ELITE scale, but I think what is being unappreciated is that vision that he has and how quickly he can get TO top speed. His top speed might not be that fast, but if you can get there first you will win the race.

But like all the 2nd tier RB’s, it really depends on the system. I like comparison of Wilson to Charles, but that’s high end I think.

detroitcity
Reply to  Krcil
10 years ago

Thanks for the support. Id really like to see Wilson go to either the Jets or Falcons

Boomer
10 years ago

I agree that Miller is better than David Wilson. The FSU fan in me LOVES Lamar Miller and even hope he goes to my Packers at 28. Agree that he has to land in a zone-spread system though.

However, I 100% disagree about T-Rich. Saban asked him to run in a power system and he did just fine. Also, keep in mind he’s a true junior and Ingram took a lot of college hits off his body that he should be ready for in the NFL. Unless he goes to TB I love T-Rich at the NFL level.

Greg G.
Reply to  Boomer
10 years ago

I think Tampa is the best possible spot. Easy division as opposed to facing Pitts and Baltimore four times a year…plus he’d have a coach that loves to run…

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Boomer
10 years ago

Most do disagree with me 100% on TRich … and sometimes it’s not good to be in the minority. But I’m sticking to my guns that he’s going to be good, but not great.

We’ll see. I have nothing against him though. He’s a great personality and is very dedicated. The NFL needs more players like him.

Greg G.
10 years ago

With Hawthorne and Lofton in tow, that NO run defense is looking stronger!

10 years ago

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