The 2023 NFL Draft boasts some diverse and intriguing running back talent. With draft day looming, there has yet to be a prospect at the position to separate themselves as the clear next best player following Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Zach Charbonnet. Kendre Miller is a polarizing prospect who is falling a bit under the radar for several reasons that are outside of his control.
While other prospects have been showcasing their talents at the Combine and in Pro Days, Miller has been sidelined as he continues to recover from an MCL injury. Although draft capital and inevitable team fit will be crucial and potentially consequential for his future success in the league, Miller possesses the size and traits of an every-down running back in the NFL.
If you were to focus solely on Kendre Miller‘s junior season with the TCU Horned Frogs, it would be respectable to assume that the young running back has always been viewed as the superstar that he currently is. This could not be further from the truth. Miller was not a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school.
Despite rushing for over 2,500 yards and scoring 34 touchdowns in his senior season at Mount Enterprise High School, Miller was lacking offers from prestigious programs. Many schools even advised the young running back to shift his focus to the defensive side of the field. This ultimately led to him committing to UTSA to play linebacker. Although his mind seemed set at the time, he decided to take a last-minute visit just 200 miles from his hometown. It was after that visit that he received an offer to play running back for TCU. As a result, his life would change forever.
Unfortunately, the team was not finished in their recruiting process at the position. TCU ended up landing their highest running back recruit in program history in Zach Evans. Although expectations were sky-high for Evans, he ended up splitting the backfield with Miller. The two put up similar statistics during their time together. Failing to meet the lofty expectations of being a top recruit, Evans ultimately decided to transfer schools and take his talents to Ole Miss. This made Miller the clear top option in the backfield heading into his junior year.
A Star is Born
The 2022 season was certainly one to remember for TCU. Led by Miller, quarterback Max Duggan, and wide receiver Quentin Johnston, the Horned Frogs recorded their first undefeated season in the last 12 years. TCU came into the season unranked. They ended up being one of the best success stories of 2022. In 14 games played on the season, Miller accumulated 1,399 rushing yards on 224 attempts and 17 rushing touchdowns. Miller was also a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back. Although he was playing alongside some notable names at TCU, Miller was the heartbeat of the team and an integral part of their ability to demolish preseason expectations.
Although he started off the season with respectable numbers and had a few noteworthy statistical performances in his first two years with the program, Kendre Miller truly broke out in his third game of the 2022 season. In a win against SMU in late-September, Miller received a career-high, seventeen carries. He made the most of his increased workload by running for 142 rushing yards and converting one rushing touchdown. Following this breakout performance, the team continued their hot start by consecutively beating four nationally ranked teams. With the team remaining undefeated, Miller scored a rushing touchdown in every game played in 2022 leading up to the Fiesta Bowl.
In this monumental game for the program, TCU was poised to take on the second-ranked team in the nation in the Fiesta Bowl, the University of Michigan. Although TCU ended up winning the game as an underdog, they also ended up losing a major part of their offensive attack. In the second quarter of the Fiesta Bowl, Miller went down with a knee injury. He was unable to return to action and was later diagnosed with a sprained MCL. His breakout season was cut short and the injury has continued to hinder his ability to showcase his athleticism this offseason.
While other prospects at the position were able to flaunt their athletic traits and speed at the NFL Combine, Miller continued to rehab his knee injury. Although he was unable to work out at his Pro Day, he did state that his recovery is way ahead of schedule and he has suffered no setbacks. In recent years, we have seen injured prospects have their value tank in the draft. Although this is a legitimate cause for concern for Miller, he has already met with several teams. This includes top 30 visits with the New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, and Arizona Cardinals. This is extremely encouraging for his potential draft capital later this month.
What We Love
At 5-11 and 215-pounds, Miller possesses the desired size and build of a modern NFL running back. He meets or exceeds all of the physical thresholds that we covet when evaluating prospects at the position. His sturdy stature is more equipped to handle a three-down role than several talented backs in the class. He utilizes his lumbering build to enhance his runs both inside and outside of the tackles. He additionally maximizes his coveted combination of balance and power in his runs. Due to this unique level of burst, he rarely loses in one-on-one situations and it takes an army to bring him down once he has a head of steam. In his three collegiate seasons at TCU, he did not have a season with an average of under six yards per carry.
Kendre Miller is also not afraid of contact. In fact, he embraces it. In his final season at TCU, he accumulated 816 rushing yards after contact. This ranked towards the top of the rankings in this category for all running backs in this year’s draft class. He combines his physical running style with a tremendous amount of patience. This enables him to spot holes in the defense and maximize the paths created by his offensive line. Although many claim that Miller lacks top-end speed, he is an explosive athlete with excellent contact balance. Once he hits a defender with his signature cutback move, he often leaves them in the dust as he coasts towards the pay dirt. His rare combination of size and elusiveness is one that I expect NFL teams to covet when critiquing his tape.
Kendre Miller gave this guy the business. Lol physicality pic.twitter.com/FnwHi1pGkO
— TCU Scouting (@TcuScouting) January 1, 2023
It is also worth noting that Miller is still under 21-years-old. He is the second youngest running back prospect in the class following Israel Abanikanda. This is an added bonus that we covet in dynasty circles. He additionally had a breakout age of 19.2, which is very favorable. Due to his current injured state and only having one full season as a starting running back in college, it is definitely appealing that he is a younger prospect.
Areas of Improvement
Kendre Miller is not a prospect without flaws. The most discussed critique on the intriguing prospect is his lack of top-end speed. His inability to perform at the combine definitely did not help the cause here either. Although this is usually a legitimate reason for concern, it is a criticism that is overvalued in this scenario. When watching tape on Miller, he is constantly outpacing his defenders as he breaks off big runs. He also profiles as a more physical runner than many running backs in the class with similarly projected draft capital. Comparing his speed to smaller backs would be an extremely unfair assessment. He seemed to have no issues breaking free for this 75-yard touchdown against Texas in the video below.
Kendre Miller 75-yard touchdown! 🔥#Big12FB x @TCUFootball
📺 ABC | @ESPNCFB pic.twitter.com/A04zKBh50t
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) November 13, 2022
Another area of concern for Kendre Miller as a prospect is his lack of utilization in the receiving game. Pass-catching running backs have proven to be incredibly lucrative in fantasy football. In his three collegiate seasons, Miller only accumulated 29 receptions for 229 receiving yards. Although his lack of involvement in this department can limit his fantasy upside, he looks natural when running routes and catching passes. This will never be a specialty of his per se, but he seems to at least be capable of performing if given the opportunity.
We have already addressed the gigantic elephant in the room. Miller is continuing to recover from a knee injury suffered last season and it could negatively impact his draft capital. In previous years, we have witnessed plenty of promising prospect’s draft stocks plummet due to the timing of their injury. This could certainly prove to be the demise of Miller’s potential dynasty value. Hopefully your rookie dynasty drafts are scheduled after the NFL Draft so you do not have to worry too much about predicting draft capital.
Leader of the Pack
There is an evident gap in talent succeeding the top tier running back prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Although there are several players at the position who possess desirable traits and specialties, there is not a prospect following the top three that is better equipped for a three-down role than Kendre Miller.
The road to triumph has never been simple for the young running back. He has had to fight for all of the opportunities given to him on the football field. His persistent demeanor and perpetual chip on his shoulder will inevitably guide him to defy the odds at the next level.