Dee Milliner has heard the criticism and is out to prove he is elite

Posted Feb 24, 2013

Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner has been projected a safe pick in this year's NFL Draft, but has also been labeled as falling short of elite status. Milliner, who is participating in the NFL Scouting Combine with a torn Labrum, is out to prove his critics wrong.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner has heard the talk. He knows what the analysts are saying about him.

There's no shortage of personal bulletin board material Milliner can use as motivation at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.

"I think Dee Milliner is safe, but he's not explosive," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of him before the Combine. 

"Milliner for me is a guy who, if he runs fast, he could become a top-10 guy. Most people already think he 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."

Mayock isn't alone in that line of thinking.

The prevailing thought on Milliner, considered the top cornerback prospect in this year's draft, is that he doesn't have the elite athleticism as some of the cornerbacks taken in the top 10 in previous drafts like Patrick Peterson (selected No. 5 by Cardinals in 2011) and Morris Claiborne (picked sixth by the Cowboys last year).

Dee Milliner"He's not Patrick Peterson, he's not Deion Sanders," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Milliner before the Combine. "Do I think he's elite? No. A No. 1 pick overall? No. I think it's a stretch at four and five, but obviously need is going to dictate it and the draft is going to dictate it."

To complicate things, Milliner is having shoulder surgery March 12 to repair a torn Labrum, but said it's the loud doubts about his athleticism and his status as one of the draft's best players as to why he's participating in all the drills except the bench press at the Combine this week.

"Watch the NFL Combine," he told reporters Sunday when asked about his athleticism. "That's another reason why I wanted to come to the combine and participate in the drills. That's why I didn't want to sit out - have surgery right after the game.

"Anytime somebody doubts you, it's like they get into it with you. I like to go out - when people say that - try to prove them wrong. Try to go out there and make a big difference when they talk about me."

In his final season at Alabama, Milliner tied for second in the nation in passes defended per game (1.69). As the season dragged on, most teams just stopped throwing his way.

Milliner said he's here to prove that he's just as much the athlete and corner as Peterson, Claiborne and some of the other most recent top cornerbacks selected in the draft.

"You('ve) always got to have confidence in yourself, know the plays that you can make, your abilities that you have," he said. "I feel like I am the best defensive back in this (class). No offense to all the other defensive backs. I just believe in what I can do and the plays that I can make."

The Detroit Lions are in need of more help at cornerback, even after taking cornerbacks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green in the 2012 Draft. That need becomes significantly greater if Chris Houston leaves via free agency. 

But Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and Co. aren't going to take a cornerback at No. 5 just to take a cornerback. The skill set has to fit the draft slot.

One things' for sure, they'll be one of those teams looking closely at Milliner this week to see if he's truly a top-5 talent.