TAMPA — In the weeks and months leading up to the the NFL draft, the buzz inside the Bucs facility grew about this small, but swift wide receiver out of Bowling Green, and how the team might have found a hidden gem.
Scotty Miller’s game film showed enough to be impressed. His speed was evident, from both the slot and outside receiver positions, complemented by a combination of footwork and hustle that allowed him to cut downfield and leave defenders behind. But NFL scouts largely ignored a mid-major Bowling Green program that went through a mid-season coaching change and finished with just three victories.
Then in March, Miller ran a 4.32-second 40 time during his pro day, also adding 10 pounds to his 5-foot-9 frame. The secret was out. The Bucs dispatched receivers coach Kevin Garver to visit Miller to gauge whether he’d be worth a late-round draft pick.
"It changed a lot," Miller said of his pro day. "I didn't get invited to the combine, no really big bowl game, so all I really had was my game film. I knew I had to show up at pro day and perform well. I think I did that. I think that helped a lot. After that, I started getting calls from a bunch more teams."
The Bucs confidently drafted Miller in the sixth round, and while being a late-round pick doesn’t guarantee you’ll wear a uniform in September, Miller stands as one of the most intriguing Bucs offensive additions.
He will certainly get the opportunity to show his worth, in the slot, along the outside and as a punt returner on special teams.
"It's going to be a curve, it's going to be a learning curve for him," Garver said. "He's a rookie, every one of those guys is going to have a learning curve to them."
Miller has drawn comparisons to free agent departure Adam Humphries, who elevated from undrafted rookie to top slot receiver with the Bucs. Miller even wears Humphries’ old No. 10. But while Miller spent most of his college career in the slot, his speed suggests his might be more adept in helping replace a vertical threat like DeSean Jackson, who the Bucs traded to Philadelphia in the offseason.
“I think I’m almost more similar to (Jackson) as far as my body and my mechanics and the way I run,” Miller said. “I played a little bit on the outside last year. I love to run press, man to man, stretch the field vertically. So whatever these coaches ask me to do and wherever it leads this summer I’ll be willing to do. I feel comfortable with both.”
Said Bucs general manager Jason Licht after drafting Miller: “Anybody that runs 4.3 is probably a deep threat, so yeah, he’s a deep threat.”
Where Miller best fits will play itself out. The Bucs are expected to test receiver Chris Godwin in the slot position, and they signed former Ravens and Browns wideout Breshad Perriman to provide another potential deep threat on the outside.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians compared Miller to Bills receiver John Brown, another sub-6 footer with 4.3 speed who played mostly on the outside in Arians' offenses in Arizona.
“Yeah, he’s not a slot," Arians said. "He’s more of a John Brown-guy for me. For him to get in there and go block a linebacker – he’s not going to last long. He’ll give us speed in the slot, he’ll give us speed as a wide receiver, but I basically see him as a wide receiver.”
Miller is listed at 174 pounds, which makes him the lightest player on the roster outside of 160-pound kicker Cairo Santos.
In trying to find his role, one thing Miller won’t lack is drive. He’s often been overlooked. He was under-recruited coming out of his suburban Chicago high school because of his size, and among FBS programs, only Bowling Green offered him a scholarship.
Despite recording a 1,148-yard, nine-touchdown season as a senior — averaging 104 receiving yards a game and 16.2 yards a catch — it was only good enough for second-team All-MAC honors.
“I wasn’t sure how that happened, but I actually had the four receivers that were first team all-conference as my screen saver when I was training (for the draft),” Miller said. “So it kind of just get gave me that extra (motivation). It got me more hungry. I always have a chip on my shoulder. I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can.
I’m undersized, smaller," Miller added. “I don’t look like the typical NFL player. ... I have the underdog mentality. That’s the mentality I have.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.