Number 49 on the Colts certainly looks the part of an NFL tight end. Standing at 6-6, 250 pounds, Mike Miller has the size you can't teach. Head coach Chuck Pagano praised "Big Mike" a few weeks ago for being a red zone threat in practice and for his size. But just who is Mike Miller?
He's an undrafted free agent, hailing from the small NAIA school Taylor University - located in Upland, Indiana, an hour's drive from Indianapolis. He's a former collegiate quarterback and wide receiver. He's a guy who had to work to get noticed by NFL teams but wound up with several visits before signing with the Colts as an undrafted free agent. And he's a guy who is now fighting to earn Indy's third tight end job, battling with Erik Swoope and Darion Griswold.
So far, he has managed to impress.
“A big guy with a big catching range and target, real raw," offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said of Miller on Tuesday. "So he’s a guy that you just chip away on and keep working and you sit back and watch. The biggest thing with those young guys, and not just him but all the guys that are that age, is if they are willing to work number one and secondly, how receptive they are to coaching. They’re going to get good coaching, they are going to have opportunities to get out there and get better and make plays. But certainly he’s like a lump of clay that you can work with and has a chance to develop down the road and you just never know. It’s amazing how guys at first you think aren’t going to make it and they find a way and find a way and find a way and it’s more about perseverance ultimately and that’s how guys make it in this league.”
Listening to Chudzinski talk about Miller, it seems he could be a prime candidate for the practice squad if he doesn't wind up making the 53-man roster. His size and athleticism is obvious, and Chud mentioned how Miller is raw and needs developing. The Colts spent a couple of years trying to mold Erik Swoope into an NFL tight end, so it's perfectly realistic to think they might take further time to continue developing someone like Miller as well. But that discussion is for later, as right now the tight end is still looking to contribute right away.
At Taylor, Miller didn't get the experience blocking like other collegiate tight ends do - mainly because he wasn't playing tight end. He saw some time at quarterback (completing 68 of 161 passes for 568 yards and five scores along with 177 yards and three scores rushing), but he was most productive at wide receiver. He caught 80 passes for 959 yards and seven touchdowns while at Taylor (playing in 27 games total), including 42 receptions for 546 yards and five scores in 2015 as a senior.
His experience as a receiver would seem to give him an advantage in that regard over some of the other tight ends looking to make the roster, so perhaps it could come down to what the Colts are looking for in their third tight end. Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle are both versatile, well-rounded tight ends, so perhaps the Colts would want a receiving tight end as their number three. If that's the case, Miller might stand a decent shot. But if the Colts are looking for another well-rounded player at the spot, Miller will need to improve and develop enough as a blocker quickly to impress enough.
All we know right now is that the number three tight end spot is up for grabs, with Erik Swoope, Darion Griswold, and Mike Miller competing for the job. It's anyone's guess as to who might wind up winning that competition, but Miller has certainly made a nice impression early on this offseason.