Quinn could dominate in any 'D'
My colleague, Todd McShay, is absolutely right to say that Texas A&M's Von Miller represents a perfect example of a potential "instant impact" talent at the NFL level. After all, Miller's size, skills, athleticism and maturity make him a dynamic player as a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker, a player who fits the scheme of any team that runs that system.
But he doesn't fit every system the way North Carolina defensive end/linebacker Robert Quinn does.
While Miller can fit a specific mold, Quinn could become dominant in any defense early in his career. As a gifted pass-rusher with the strength and smarts to be effective against the run in a 4-3, Quinn also has the athleticism, length and instincts to develop into a frightening threat to quarterbacks in a 3-4 scheme. For comparison, consider DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys. Ware and Quinn have a similar build -- Ware is 6-foot-4 and plays at about 265 pounds. Quinn is 6-5 and plays at about 270 pounds. As an NFL prospect, Ware was tagged with the "tweener" label by many scouts, and rightly so. Before the 2005 draft, there were concerns that Ware, a defensive end at Troy, was a little bit shy of the ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end and perhaps a little too bulky to play outside linebacker in a 3-4.
But while that "tweener" description is often considered a negative, with such a special talent, it can be smarter to focus on the idea that he could fit anywhere. Quinn could be such a player. He is athletic enough to become an immediate pass-rushing threat in a 3-4 or 4-3. Houston, which needs help in building the 3-4, could use him right away. So could Tennessee, which needs a 4-3 defensive end. Or even Buffalo, which could employ a 3-4 or a 4-3, depending on personnel.
With skills potentially worthy of a No. 1 overall pick, Quinn could be the guy who impacts a team immediately. He's the round or square peg of this draft.
Mel Kiper has been the premier name in NFL draft prospect evaluations for more than three decades. He started putting out his annual draft guides in 1978, and started contributing to ESPN as an analyst in 1984. For more from Mel, check out his annual draft publications or his ESPN home page. He can also be found on Twitter here.
No doubt Miller is ready to rock
Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller will enter the NFL with the experience and maturity -- both physically and mentally -- of a four-year player and is as ready as any other prospect in the 2011 class to handle the rigors of a 16-game NFL season.
From a physical standpoint, Miller's explosive first step and flexibility when shaving the edge as a perimeter pass-rusher are qualities that just can't be coached.
He also has the quick hands to help him disengage from bigger blockers and the explosive closing burst to make plays in pursuit as a run defender. Miller is also a very strong tackler who shows more power when bringing down ball carriers than his size (6-foot-2⅝, 237 pounds) might suggest.
Are there areas of his game that could be improved? Of course, but the same holds true for every prospect in this class. For Miller, that would include adding bulk and strength to better hold up in phone-booth situations against NFL offensive linemen, and improving his recognition skills and technique when dropping into underneath pass coverage.
But remember, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in 2009, and after an ankle injury limited him for the first four games of 2010, he recorded 10.5 sacks over the final nine games. He will earn his money as a pass-rusher while working on those little things.
As long as Miller lands with a team that makes getting upfield and pressuring the quarterback his top priority, I expect him to have the same kind of rookie production we've seen in recent years from the likes of Clay Matthews, Shawne Merriman and DeMarcus Ware.
Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson are the other most NFL-ready players in this draft, and it won't surprise me if Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph has a rookie year similar to the one Rob Gronkowski had in 2010 for New England. But Miller is the prospect best equipped to affect games from Day 1.
Todd McShay is the director of college scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998. Follow McShay on Twitter: @McShay13