Will He Stay or Will He Go: Braxton Miller Weighs a Big Decision

By Kyle Rowland on December 16, 2013 at 9:15a
Could this image factor into Braxton Miller's low draft stock?

Will Jan. 3 represent the end of era for Ohio State? The possibility is fresh in the minds of coaches as 90 percent of the offensive production, the line that makes the unit go and two of the Buckeyes’ best defensive players could depart for the NFL. Overcoming such significant losses would be difficult at most places. But Ohio State reloads at a rapid rate. However, there is one position that rises above all others: quarterback.

As recently as two or three seasons ago, the thought of Braxton Miller leaving early was foolish. Then Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Michael Vick performed at a level that made front office personnel rethink the quarterback position. Johnny Manziel is projected to be a top-10 draft pick after dazzling scouts throughout his college career with a mixture of completing passes and alluding tacklers for rushing yards.

Miller’s skill set while similar to Manziel’s is not as complete or robust. That’s why he’s pegged as a second-day selection. Miller is still more of a college quarterback than anything. His completion percentage is a career-best 63 percent, but that is far shy of what NFL scouts want to see. In the final four games, Miller only completed 38 of 82 pass attempts.

“The inconsistency, lack of placement down field and, really, Miller’s need to be a runner to have success as a passer is a big deal,” Eric Galko, director of scouting for Optimum Scouting, told Eleven Warriors. “He’s not a Johnny Manziel type of guy who can make guys miss in the backfield and then make plays downfield.”

Despite passing for 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 10 games, Miller’s inconsistency throwing the football is his biggest downside. His potential draft grade hovered in the first or second round before the season. Injuries and an unimpressive November slid him down the list.

“For Braxton, another year would really help him,” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., said on a conference call. “He could improve as a passer, throw with a little bit more anticipation, be a little more precise with his ball placement, and be an early-round pick next year.”

A big body – 6-foot-2, 215 pounds – and powerful running style work in his favor, though Miller’s been injury prone dating to high school. He’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, and during his three-year career at Ohio State, Miller has 3,019 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns on the ground.

That size is also a detriment. Good for a runner, but bad for a passer. Galko sees Miller as a similar player to the North Carolina State version of Russell Wilson. He played like a “chicken with his head cut off” for the Wolf Pack before moving on to Wisconsin where he was surrounded by more talented players. Suddenly, Wilson’s accuracy skyrocketed to 73 percent. He also blended in running plays, tallying 338 yards rushing – a career-high 4.3 yards per carry – and six touchdowns.

“NFL teams realize it’s more how you use that quickness and when you choose to run as opposed to how well you run,” Galko said. “That’s what Wilson did at Wisconsin. It’s a dream scenario for Miller if he can do the same and show he can manage an offense.”

He doesn't just run. Braxton Miller's mechanics have been dissected by NFL scouts. 

In the past two seasons, Miller’s been named the Big Ten MVP, offensive player of the year and quarterback of the year – twice. After winning the Chicago Tribune Silver Football, Miller told the Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein that a decision on his future will be made following the Orange Bowl.

“It’s tough. I just don't know,” Miller said. “I’ve really got to sit down and go through the pros and cons. I'll talk to my parents, take it slow. Hopefully ball out on January 3rd and see what the scouts are looking at.”

The cumulative effect of taking so many hits is one reason Miller might decide to forego his senior season. He missed three games in 2013 with a sprained MCL, left several games in 2012 with various injuries and suffered a game-ending injury at Nebraska his freshman season. Without Hyde and the departure of four offensive linemen, there’s a good chance the hits will keep coming in 2014. The possibility of Miller being needed to run also exists.

Urban Meyer and Tom Herman are well qualified to tutor Miller, but their top priority is to win football games. So Miller might not always be honing the skills needed to succeed in the NFL.

“His lack of ideal size is a big factor,” Galko said. “I could see him getting a third- or fourth-round grade because of his talent and upside. But if he came out this year based on this senior class and the juniors who are likely to declare, he could fall very late in the draft – the fifth or sixth round, simply because there are guys who can do what he does a little bit better.”

Manziel is the obvious selection, but so too is Virginia Tech’s dual-threat quarterback Logan Thomas, who carries tremendous upside into the draft. For Miller’s stock to climb considerably, he would need to test and throw well at the combine, which opens up a recipe for disaster.

Miller verges on being a project. Starting as a rookie is not part of the equation and being a dependable backup is just as unrealistic. But there’s something to be said for natural talent and the “it” factor. When Miller steps on a football field, both attributes shine through.

“The biggest thing that would benefit Braxton coming back would be 12 more games proving that this isn’t just, ‘Hey, the Big Ten is bad and I played well for the last five or six games,’” former Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said. “Scouts, GMs, coaches, they would all have a chance to see a season and a half of Braxton’s work at the level he is at now.”

From a pure career standpoint, returning for his senior season seems like a no-brainer. Being the centerpiece for the Buckeyes means another year of heady stats, a possible Heisman Trophy campaign and continuous media attention. The potential for growth as a pocket passer is immense.

What could be a big factor in Miller's decision is his 1-year-old son, Landon. He's become a doting father and would be given the opportunity to provide for his family should he leave for the NFL. However, Miller's father, Kevin, doesn't believe that will sway his decision.

“I don’t think so. It’s not a hardship situation or anything like that,” he told the Tribune.

Meyer and Herman have already transformed Miller’s game in two short seasons. Galko believes Kenny Guiton staying on as a graduate assistant would also benefit Miller. And if Manziel can be a first-round pick, there’s little reason to believe Miller can’t achieve the same status. Outside of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta, no quarterback projects to be significantly better than Miller in the Spring of 2015.

“If he can make the same improvement as he did from last year to this, then the sky is the limit,” Herman told the Tribune. “We’re talking about the first or second round. He has all the physical tools.”

The decision must be made by Jan. 15.



Northbrook's picture

If I were the head coach I would make it clear that there will be a truly open competition for the starting QB spot for next season.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

Assuming Braxton leaves, I think it goes without saying that there will be a open competition since Cardale Jones will have 2 years and a few dozen snaps within the Meyer/Herman system.  Jt barret will have a year to have learned the play book and strengthen his knee, which he injured his senior year in HS.  Stephen Collier is probably an unlikely candidate since he'll be enrolling early, but will have no experience or time to learn much of the play book.
Now if you are saying their should be an open competition either way, stay or go for Braxton, then you are crazy.  Just like people who still believe Kenny G should start the bowl game.  Braxton sure as hell isn't coming back if he is going to be embarrassed by the coaches and forced to win a job, which he did nothing to lose.

Northbrook's picture

Yeah I'm probably crazy. I mean Meyer doesn't really think competition is a good thing for the individual and team.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

Yea that's why he stuck with Jordan Hall once Hyde came back, and that must be why Washington lost his job to a freshman.  Your last comment does prove my earlier point.

Northbrook's picture

I think we have a failure to communicate. over and out.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

I just picked up on your likely sarcastic intentions on that previous comment.  Meyer doesn't believe in making a competition or a story out of absolutely nothing, which is the reason he would never make Braxton win his own job.

rkylet83's picture

No matter what he chooses he'll go down as a all-time great.  His improvement has been great this season, but I think he needs to take another step in his development.  With another season at Ohio State of learning how to read and recognize defenses I think he can make a huge breakthrough.  Right now teams can still align defensively to force him to pass; similar to Troy Smith in 2005.  Another year of development and I don't think they can do that.     

buckeyepastor's picture

Miller's completion percentage did go up from 58 in 2012 to 63 this year, but I think it needs to be north of 68%, and way more consistent, especially late in the season.   While his playmaking with his feet stays pretty consistent from wire to wire, his passing numbers in November, both this year and last, I would think are problematic.  
Herman has said many times that OSU couldn't pass because of windy conditions or other concerns.  To me, if a QB is inhibited from being trusted to throw the ball from time to time, he's not ready for the NFL.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

zhamilton05's picture

Very good point. I was disappointed to see the passing offense stunted for the last few games. Seems like it was a 4-headed monster: bad weather, Braxton's inconsistency, the WRs' inconsistency, and Herman & Meyer turtling a bit on the playcalling. But Miller must command the offense if he stays for 2014, even with the loss of Hyde and Brown and most of the O-Line. He'll need to strafe the entire field to the tune of 65-70% completion, limit turnovers, plus be a major weapon running the ball, in order to be a 1st-round prospect.

BAR43's picture

I am trying to understand what Miller or anyone else thinks that makes them believe Miller can make it in the NFL at his current level. I like Miller a lot so dont want to come across negative. He is not ready, one more year of improvement and he can be there. But he will not succeed at the next level at his current ability. TSmith made a HUGE jump JR to SR year and Miller can do the same, it will make a world of difference for the rest of his career if he is just wants another year.

sb97's picture

I think its time we recognize that most players improve when they get to the NFL.  As an NFL player he will be allowed to devote 100% of his time to improving his craft with no limits on when, how, or who coaches him.  That is simply not true in the NCAA.  His decision should be about weighing risk versus reward.  Are the chances better that he will improve his draft stock via an improved passing game or suffer an injury that could jeopardize his draft position or even his career.  Keep in mind he will be playing behind a rebuilt offensive line without a proven RB to take the pressure off of him (I like Dunn, Ball, Elliot, and Smith as much as anyone but they are not proven commodities yet).

BAR43's picture

Of course players improve once they get to the NFL. But if you are not at the top of your game going into the NFL, the probability of your overall success is very slim. Success in the NFL is already a difficult feat, but you need to be great at something to succeed at that level. Miller strengths currently are not enough to make him good at the next level. His athleticism will be met by just about everyone on the next level. The whole risk thing is BS. Fine he leaves early and then gets injured in the NFL, now he has no degree and his football career is done. The Oline will be fine. The only justifiable reason for Miller to leave is if Herman will not call more passing next year for Miller to advance those skills and needs to move on to someone who will help him in that area.

droessl's picture

I truly believe he needs another year to improve consistency as a passer. We've seen games where he's lights out, hitting guys in stride 10+ passes in a row. Then there's other games where he looks like Joe Germaine (all due respect) early in a game against TTUN. That game-to-game inconsistency, IMO, is what keeps him from being a great QB. But when he's on... DAMN! 

BoFuquel's picture

Get your degree Braxton. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Nuts4Bucks13's picture

Without sounding too uninformed, does anybody know his family situation?  What's the money like for a second day draft guy? 
That's the only thing I could think of.  Maybe he believes that he can be successful...and make a little money immediately to help his family out.  I honestly don't know, beyond that I can't imagine how he would think leaving now is a good idea.   

kalabuckzoo's picture

2014 rookie minimum = $420,000
thats the worst he could do if he is good enough to take a roster spot.  According to the NFL cap rules the difference between a 1st round contract and a 5th round contract would be about $5 Million over four years.  So basically getting into the late first round vs. being 4th round or lower will translate into about $1 million per year for your rookie contract. 
Being a first rounder is a really big deal.

bigbill992001's picture

He just wasnt the same passer after the injury.   mjechanics screwed up?   Head games?.............I dont kno, but it seemed like he reverted to "run 1st Brax".

wolfeman17's picture

I honestly can't imagine him leaving. He had a .500 completion percentage the last three games, not to mention he hasn't won a B1G Championship. How can one of the best quarterbacks in OSU history never win a conference title?


NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

How can a QB who doesn't go undefeated be considered one of the best QBs in OSU's history?  He would have a B1G title under the old rules that every other OSU QB played with.  That's why he is already one of the best ever.  Oh and there is that little winning streak, which no other OSU QB in history has ever accomplished.

ChazBuckeye's picture

As I agree with Brax being an all time great, he would benefit SO much by coming back another year.  Or may be not.  Some have benefited while others hurt their stock by coming back.  However, if he listens to the sentiments from the experts, it would be a good idea to stay.  

"His completion percentage is a career-best 63 percent, but that is far shy of what NFL scouts want to see. In the final four games, Miller only completed 38 of 82 pass attempts."

This^^^^ is a BIG reason why he should stay.  Some of that horrible attempts to completions came against two of the best defensive backfields OSU faced all season (and I'm being nice by putting TTUN's DBs in there;-)~

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Blackbeards Delight's picture

The choice is easy. Go to the league now, and two to three years latter he'll be out of the league and selling medical products for a company here in CBus. Or stay for his Senior season, maybe win a NC/Heisman then go to the league for two or three years. Afterwords come back to CBus and sell medical products, show up on 1460 here and there, eat at Applebee's, hit up bed bath and beyond (Home Depot if he has time), and take his family on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer. Either way it seems like a pretty decent little life.

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


Buckeye_Ryan's picture

Upvote for the Old School reference...

Born a Buckeye, raised a Buckeye, will die a Buckeye.

harleymanjax's picture

Let's just hope he doesn't go streaking in the quad!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Concord's picture

Miller can dazzle you with the long pass for the TD and then confound you by missing wide open guys with simple throws.
He has got to fix that...but honestly if he hasn't fixed that by now...I doubt he ever will.
He's not ready for the NFL.
You're going to give up your Senior season as starting QB of Ohio St to be picked in the 3rd or 4th round?

Maestro's picture

I sure hope he stays.  That being said, I am excited to see Barrett play as well.  Kid can really run the inverted veer like a champ.

vacuuming sucks

Eph97's picture

His best decision would be to come back. He goes now and he is a 2nd-3rd round pick. If he comes back he has the potential to be a first round pick if he shows continued improvement. Granted, there is no guarantee he will do that and the risk of injury is there. He should buy a good insurance policy and come back. The difference between first round and later round money is huge. Plus, the added bonus of enjoying his senior year of college, which is a once in a lifetime experience. Just look at what that one extra year of playing time did for Russell Wilson's stock.

Spikebone's picture

I think he would be crazy to leave now but I'm not in his shoes soooo he should do what he feels is best for him.

Stuck in Ann Arbor for work, I can confirm she is indeed a whore.

steveoz49's picture

If he stays.... GREAT!!!!
If he leaves.....Best of luck and NEXT MAN UP!

Larryp713's picture

I have learned to accept that this is an individual and personal decision. I think the possibility of a serious injury while in college is a big worry for him. He obviously wants a shot to play in the NFL, and he might be afraid to lose that chance by getting hurt. That is not a good place to be mentally when you are playing Big Ten college football.
But, financially, and to give himself a better shot, he should play his senior year. He will almost certainly improve his draft stock, and get selected at least a round or two higher, which is big bucks through the course of your early career.
If he was asking my advice, and I don't expect him to, I would tell him to play his senior year and run the ball like he did the second half of this year. He was a lot less gimpy after runs when he ran hard. When he was tentative, he was more prone to sprains and tweaks. His progressions and awareness did improve this year, and if he becomes more consistent as a passer, and stays healthy, there is little doubt he doesn't get a trip to NYC next December.



dwcbuckeye's picture

Love this guy.  I sure hope he stays for his sake.  No doubt in my mind, the buckeyes will be fine if he leaves.  I have confidence in the new OL and the coaches ability to get them up to speed.  We have to admit, we have one of the best OL coaches in football. 

tjbucvik23's picture

I love B. Miller but he's not yet ready for the pro's. They insist that you pass well. BM is improved but still over throws or under throws too many receivers. He would get drafted behind McCarron,  Mettenburg, Jordon, Bridgewater, fifth QB.... is that the 3rd or 4th round ? Stay, learn, improve, grow....... if you're tired of being hit...... hand off the damned ball or pass it.

wyatt's picture

Braxton should come back and Shazier should go to the NFL this year. Seems pretty clear to me. The real question to me is how to fix the defense/bring in all new LBs and retool the secondary.

unholy bucknut's picture

I hope he stays around I don't think he has a chance in the NFL right now. He is so close to greatness and I think one more year could do it. Whatever he decides to do though i'll respect it and wish him the best. I just think coming back is the best decision he could make at this point.

buckeyeboy59's picture

I believe Braxton will see that he should improve his skills as much as he can before they are challenged at the next level, and he will return for his senior year

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

I think his heart is telling him to stay and his head is telling him to go.  Just from the comments I have read.