Perfect Fit: Scouting Miami Dolphins’ 2nd Round LB Raekwon McMillian
The second the Chicago Bears spent two third round picks and a fourth round pick to trade up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky, I had a feeling that this was going to be a weird draft. With the Dolphins taking Charles Harris in the first round, the focus for the team switched to the back seven of the defense.
With the 54th pick in the 2017 draft the Dolphins selected Raekwon McMillian from Ohio State University. McMillian joins Darron Lee and Ryan Shazier –Buckeye linebackers who are currently in the NFL.
The Dolphins ranked 30th in the NFL against the run and McMillian was drafted to help change that. At the end of his three-year career at Ohio State, McMillian became a team captain and a leader on a Big Ten defense.
Questions surfaced about McMillian’s ability to play on passing downs, but an impressive pro day helped to quiet that narrative with a 4.61 40-yard dash, making him a top performer at his position. McMillian originally put on weight to move inside at Ohio State but will likely be a strong side linebacker in Miami.
There is a lot to like about McMillian, but one thing that stands out is his lack of play-making ability. In some ways he is currently on the same level of current Dolphins’ strong safety, Koa Misi. They both are consistent and sound tacklers, but Misi has struggled with injury issues throughout his career.
McMillian isn’t an instant three-down linebacker, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Dolphins. With the Dolphins signing Laurence Timmons, and extending Kiko Alonso, the Dolphins will likely use those two in nickel packages (teams used a nickel defense 68 percent of the time in 2016).
Miami’s situation and depth offers McMillian the opportunity to thrive and help the Dolphins’ struggling run defense; it also gives him more time to improve his quickness and grow into a 3-down linebacker in the future.
Before the draft, our Jeff Hyde broke down the pros and cons of the 20-year-old from Liberty Country High School. Here we take a look at what he had to say:
The first thing that pops out when watching McMillan is his sound tackling technique in the gaps. When high school coaches are showing their players video of proper run tackling, they should turn on Raekwon McMillan’s collegiate tape. In the clip below, he makes a great play on the ball carrier by playing off of his defensive tackles perfectly. He reads the play and continues to move laterally with square shoulders. He then wraps up through the tackle and continues to drive his legs to ensure the ball carrier doesn’t get any extra yards after contact.
He’s a great player off of the DL, but also takes away a lot of lanes of his own by taking good angles on outside runs. It’s one of the reasons why he recorded over 220 tackles in the last two seasons as Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker. When reading the play, he excels at mirroring the running back, allowing him to beat the blockers to their spot and blow up the play.
McMillan is not only a very skilled run-stopping backer, but he also shows good awareness in the passing game. He lacks the athleticism of some of the top LB’s in this class, but he is quick to diagnose whether a play is a pass or a run. He is best in intermediate zone coverage, which suits the Dolphins well; he’s also proven that he can be good when isolated on a RB in man coverage as seen below.
McMillan is a great tackler and is at his best when he is already moving toward the ball carrier in anticipation of meeting him at a specific spot. However, McMillan tends to struggle when the ball carrier has the time and space to make the first move. McMillan, like most guys his size, lacks the agility to stay with shifty ball carriers and receivers in space.
Teams were able to get McMillan into space and exploit this by using reverses and screens against Ohio State, often resulting in big plays for the offense.
McMillan can be a productive LB as a top 50 pick and was a huge steal in the second round for the Dolphins at pick No. 54. The question some have about McMillan at the next level is if he can become a three-down middle linebacker. I think he can be, but I also think that’s the wrong concern to have. With teams playing in a nickel scheme about 60% of the time on defense, the days of needing a three down middle LB are ending. I think the question instead should be, “is this guy better at his job than our current player at the same position?” And in the Dolphins’ case, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” The Dolphins boasted one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL last year, yet ranked 30th in the league vs. the run giving up over 140+ yards/game on the ground.
McMillan is a great fit for the Dolphins’ current personnel and coaching staff. New Dolphins DC Matt Burke has always had the big, thumping prototypical MLB to pair with his big bodied DT’s on front line. With Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Dolphins’ big defensive front taking on most of the work, Raekwon, a physical, fundamentally sound MLB, will be able to do what he does best — Stop the run.