Here’s a take that we’ll be circling back on later. In an article discussing the worst team fits for players selected in the 2023 NFL draft, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox was critical of the New Orleans Saints’ decision to pick former TCU running back Kendre Miller, citing a scouting report from his peer Derrick Klassen and the team’s other offseason moves.
While there may be a path for Miller to get on the field early should Alvin Kamara be suspended at some point this season, Knox believes his college resume and the Saints’ offensive tendencies last season don’t point to a good match. Here’s what Knox wrote of the pick:
Presumably, New Orleans made the pick as an insurance policy for Alvin Kamara, who faces possible league discipline after being indicted on battery charges—though general manager Micky Loomis insisted that it wouldn’t affect New Orleans’ draft plans.
“It’s not going to influence who we pick,” Loomis said, per Luke Johnson of NOLA.com. “That’s a short-term issue.”
The problem is that New Orleans got an insurance policy and a rushing complement to Kamara when it signed Jamaal Williams in the offseason. The other issue is that Miller is an upright runner with limited third-down skills who simply isn’t the best fit for New Orleans’ offense.
“Miller will fit best in an outside zone system that simplifies his reads and unlocks his speed on the perimeter,” Klassen wrote.
The Saints used zone-rushing concepts at the 22nd-highest rate last season, according to Sports Info Solutions. Miller would have been better off landing with a team that has less depth at the position and more propensity for zone runs.
The NFC South rival Buccaneers, for example, would have been a much better spot for Miller. Tampa parted with starter Leonard Fournette in the offseason and brought in former Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales as offensive coordinator.
Seattle, it should be noted, used zone runs 75 percent of the time last season, according to SIS. Assuming Canales uses the same offensive philosophies he learned in Seattle, Miller would be a tremendous fit in Tampa.
Had the Bucs taken Miller with the 82nd pick, it still would have been a reach but a more logical one. Aside from perhaps free-agent addition Chase Edmonds, Tampa doesn’t have a truly proven runner on its roster.
While it’s true that the Saints don’t run as many zone-blocking concepts as other offenses rely on around the league, they still leaned on that philosophy more frequently (46.4%) than with gap-scheme plays (43.6%), per Pro Football Focus charting, meaning Miller will have plenty of opportunities to do what he does best.
As for Miller’s passing-down usage: it’s true that he wasn’t asked to catch many passes or hang back in pass protection at TCU. That wasn’t his role in the offense, and those are skills he’s going to need to develop in New Orleans. So it’s a good thing Jamaal Williams has extensive experience working on third downs. That was his role early in his career with the Green Bay Packers as Aaron Rodgers’ primary passing-down back. If Miller doesn’t make much headway in the passing game right away, Williams is more than capable of picking up the slack.
So was this a bad pick? Time will tell, but Miller’s confidence that he can reliably fill many of Kamara’s responsibilities is telling in itself. Just because he didn’t get many opportunities to shine as a receiver doesn’t mean he won’t be able to pick it up moving forward. Miller may have had an easier path to playing-time across the division in Tampa Bay, but he’s arguably set up for more success in New Orleans with veterans to lean on and a clear vision for his role in the Saints offense. If Bleacher Report is concerned that a team picked a prospect 100 slots higher than they predicted, the larger issue may be how they built those rankings.