Zach Miller (Kosovac/JagNation)
After departing with the versatile Matt Jones this offseason, the Jaguars picked up tight end Zach Miller in the sixth round of the draft. Miller, a quarterback in college, will now play tight end for the Jaguars, as they hope that this transformation ends better than the Jones experiment, which was a disaster due to numerous off-field problems.
Jacksonville fans might be familiar with the name Tim Tebow; you know the guy, he’s a local product who has won two national championships and a Heisman trophy while at the University of Florida. For years now, Jaguars’ message boards have been filled with fans holding their breath that the phenomenal southpaw would stay local and be picked up by Jacksonville. Well, Zach Miller may not be UF’s superman, but he has been dubbed by some as “the poor man’s Tim Tebow.”
Drafted as the 180th overall pick, the Nebraska-Omaha product was originally recruited by Nebraska to be an optionquarterback before the team went with a different offensive philosophy. He was a productive dual-threat quarterback for the Mavericks over the past few years, rushing for over 800 yards and throwing for over 1,000 each of his three years as a starter. He accumulated over 1,000 rushing yards a sophomore and senior.
“When you talk about the tight end, Zach Miller, he’s kind of a Wildcat quarterback,” said Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio.
The Jaguars were certainly attracted by Miller’s versatility as a dual-threat quarterback, but he will have to make it at tight end to play for Jacksonville.
“We know he’s a guy that loves football,” said Del Rio. “He’ll be making a position switch, but our tight end coach, Mike Tice, worked him out and we believe that he has a skill set to develop.”
What do the Jaguars base this assumption that he can turn into a tight end on? It starts with Miller’s size, which is exceptional. At 6’4”, 233 lbs., Miller has excellent size and the frame to get even bigger. He blends his stature with 4.5 speed and overall athleticism.
Where Miller really helped his stock was at the Cactus Bowl, an all-star game for Division II players. There, Miller lined up at tight end and he proved that he could certainly play the position at a high level, hauling in five receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Del Rio and Gene Smith both alluded to the fact that Miller would also have to earn his paycheck by playing special teams as well. Miller again shined in that role at the Cactus Bowl, accumulating three tackles on return coverage.
The Jaguars are desperate for a pass-catching tight end who can pick up yards after the catch, as a player matching that description was missing last season. Marcedes Lewis, the Jaguars former first-round pick (2006), has emerged as an elite blocking tight end and had a career high with 489 yards receiving last season, but showed inconsistent hands. Marcedes still has the potential to emerge as a perennial Pro Bowler, but he doesn’t have the speed to stretch the field. Greg Estandia has shown glimpses of playing that role, but there is an opportunity for Miller to contribute in that role.
With the Wildcat offense starting to spread across the NFL, multifaceted players are becoming a must. Miller has the ability to line up at tight end, take snaps in the backfield, and contribute on special teams. For a sixth-round selection, Miller’s potential certainly is worth the risk.