INDIANAPOLIS -- Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, projected by many to be the top defensive back selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder after this week's scouting combine, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Milliner will participate in combine drills, but will not be a part of Alabama's Pro Day on March 13. He will do every drill at the combine except for the bench press.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Milliner, who decided to make himself available to the NFL after his junior season, made the AP First-Team All-American squad after a 2012 campaign in which he led the nation in passes defensed with 22, picked off two passes, forced a fumble, and amassed 34 solo tackles. His stats speak to his well-rounded style -- not only can Milliner play pass defense very well, but he's not afraid to hit the box and help stop the run.
The only real question about Milliner as an potentially elite cornerback has to do with his game speed -- he's not a burner when trailing faster receivers, and the hope is that he'll run under 4.5 at the combine to eradicate some of those concerns. In addition, a strong showing in the defensive back drills could address a few thoughts that Milliner needs to shore up a few of the little things at his position.
"I really like him," Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said of Milliner in a media conference call this week, when asked if a top-five pick was too spendy for the player. "I think he's a heck of a football player and I think he'd be safe. But I don't think he's that explosive 4.35 kind of 40 [yard dash] guy. If they took him, I'd be okay with that because he's a solid football player, but I think it's a little high for him ... if he runs fast, he can become a top 10 guy. And most people think he already is. I don't. I love him as a player, love him on tape. I think he's more like the 20th pick in the draft, if I had to put a number on him. However, if he runs sub‑4.5, I think he's going to be a top 10 pick."
However, it's possible that Milliner's skill set more closely resembles that of Chicago's Charles Tillman than, say, Seattle's Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets. Tillman ran a 4.49 at his combine in 2003, and though he's lost a couple milliseconds in the subsequent decade, few defenders are as savvy when it comes to route concepts, and Tillman also hits like a safety.
We'll see how it goes for Milliner. In the meantime, expect to hear even more buzz about the cornerbacks below him on the boards of most people, especially Florida State's Xavier Rhodes. The 6-foot-1, 217-pound Rhodes has the ideal frame and playing style for the NFL's trend toward more physical cornerbacks who play a lot of press man coverage. And Desmond Trufant of Washington, who has a very strong Senior Bowl week, could see his name rise as well.