Cornerback Dee Milliner doesn’t figure to have a long wait in the green room on the first day of the NFL draft.
The former Alabama standout is a certain top-10 pick in the draft, which will be held April 25-27.
“What I see on tape is a tough instinctive guy who tackles, which I love. I love a corner that will tackle,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said.
Milliner will be the latest in a line of NFL-ready defenders sent to the league by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
“When you come out of Nick Saban’s Alabama program, especially when you’re a defensive back, you are well-coached,” Mayock said. “(Milliner) understands zone concepts. He plays man-to-man. He presses. He tackles.”
The only question about Milliner was his speed. He erased that potential red flag when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.
Milliner helped the Crimson Tide win back-to-back BCS championships and had six interceptions and 38 pass break-ups over three seasons as a starter.
Several mock drafts have him going to Detroit with the fifth pick. He likely won’t slip past Cleveland, which has the sixth pick, if Detroit goes in another direction.
“I feel like I am the best (defensive back) in all of this,” Milliner said. “No offense to all them other DBs, I just believe in what I can do and all of the plays that I can make.”
Last season, former Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was selected 17th, by Cincinnati. In 2010, former Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson, of Macon, was drafted 20th, by Houston.
“We’re alike because we come from the same style under coach Saban; you know you have to be (a) hard-nosed, physical player at the line of scrimmage and come up in run support,” Milliner said.
For teams such as the Falcons, who are in the market for cornerbacks, this is a deep draft at the position.
Since the end of the season, the Falcons have said good-bye to three of their top five cornerbacks: Brent Grimes (signed with Miami), Dunta Robinson (Chiefs) and Christopher Owens (Browns).
The Falcons appear set to re-stock the position in the draft and could try to move up in the first round to snag a cornerback.
In addition to Milliner, Xavier Rhodes (Florida State), Desmond Trufant (Washington), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State) and D.J. Hayden (Houston) could be selected in the first round. The Falcons are slated to pick 30th.
“If you think about a corner other than Trufant, if Trufant is gone, which I think he will, Xavier Rhodes I have gone, the guys I think could be there, possibly D.J. Hayden from Houston or Jamar Taylor from Boise State,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Those would be a couple names of guys that would be worthy of being in the late-first-round discussion at the cornerback spot.”
Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Connecticut), B.W. Webb (William and Mary), Tyrann Mathieu (LSU), Rod Sweeting (Georgia Tech) and Sanders Commings (Georgia) are other solid cornerback prospects.
“When I look at it, there are a number of corners in this draft class that can play, and they can help teams as a (left), (right) or (slot cornerback),” Chicago general manager Phil Emery said. “I would say that’s a strength (of the draft).”
The Lions re-signed former Falcons cornerback Chris Houston over the offseason, but need to find another corner. Milliner could be their guy.
Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew was very interested in how fast Milliner ran at the combine.
“It’s hard to say that there’s a specific number,” Mayhew said. “I think we know what fast is. We like fast. I think if you’re bigger, I think there may be a little bit of wiggle room in terms of your actual time.”
The Lions have a couple of traits they look for in cornerbacks.
“We like fast guys,” Mayhew said. “Guys that run fast, guys that run sub-4.5, I would say are fast. And then guys that run slower than that have to have something else going for them.”