INDIANAPOLIS — Dee Milliner doesn’t lack any confidence and he’s ready for Prime Time.
“I feel like I am the best DB in this draft,” Milliner said Sunday afternoon at the NFL Combine. “No offense to the other DBs, I just believe in what I can do and the plays I can make. The physical style I play with is different from some cornerbacks.
“You’ve always got to have confidence as a cornerback. If you have confidence and faith in what you can do, you’ll go out and follow that direction.”
The 5-foot-11 Millbrook native and Stanhope Elmore graduate decided to forego his senior season at Alabama and enter the NFL Draft. Rated as the top cornerback in the draft by most draft publications, Milliner is ready to impress NFL decision makers when he goes through the on-field workouts today.
“I didn’t want to sit out the Combine and the pro day, and then (the media) would be wondering, saying this and that,” said Milliner, who will do all of the on-field exercises despite needing surgery to repair a torn labrum. That procedure will take place on March 12 and will keep him sidelined for about two months.
Milliner thinks he tore his labrum Nov. 11 against Texas A&M, but continued to play despite the pain. He said he doesn’t experience any pain when running or turning, so his Combine drills should not be encumbered.
“I know I’ll be back to normal making plays and that’s why I wanted to come to the Combine to show that I can still move around and move stuff,” Milliner said. “I could’ve had surgery right after the game, but I feel like I needed to come out show that I can still move around, I can run and swing my arm around.”
Success has followed Milliner at every level of football. He helped Elmore reach the state playoffs in each of his four years and his college career was punctuated with a pair of national championships.
“He’s a tough, instinctive guy who likes to tackle,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Sunday afternoon. “I love a guy who tackles.
“He understands zone concepts. He plays man-to-man, he presses, he tackles. The only thing I’m not sure of is his long speed and that’s what we’re going to get an answer on Tuesday afternoon.”
Milliner will be joined on the field Tuesday by Alabama safety Robert Lester, an underrated prospect with prototypical size at 6-1, 220 pounds. Lester is lauded for his toughness, coverage and ball skills and football instincts, but is considered a middle-round prospect because of his inconsistent play.
Milliner has been in constant contact with former Bama defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick, a first-round pick a year ago by the Cincinnati Bengals. Kirkpatrick isn’t the only NFL player Milliner looks up to. A student of the game, Milliner studies tapes of New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, Cleveland’s Joe Haden, Seattle’s Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Champ Bailey, and, of course, Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders.
“He’s Prime Time,” said Milliner, who met with about 20 teams Sunday night. “You’ve got to love him. He was a great player. He had that mentality, that swagger, that a defensive back should have. He told you what he was going to do and then he backed it up 100 percent.
People like that, the way he did it, you really have to look at him because he’s one of the great DBs to play in the league.”
So, will Milliner do the Deion high-step if and when he gets his first pick-six?
“You’ve got to do that,” said Milliner, who also watched several of the top college cornerbacks in the country when he got the chance.
“It’s the prime time. Every DB that gets their first pick either does that or nothing at all, so that’s a must.”
Milliner even got the opportunity to scout Sanders’ NFL Network alter ego, Leon Sandcastle.
“He might be better than Deion,” he said to a response of robust laughter. “The way he was running, that’s pretty fast. They might need to check that time. He might have to go against Usain Bolt.”
Milliner, who suffered a stress fracture in shin as a sophomore, admitted that he may have to adjust his physical style to adhere to the NFL rules that favor wide receivers.
“You’ve got to watch yourself what you’re doing nowadays. But I don’t think it’ll change my mentality as a player. It’s a physical game. You just have to what yourself when you’re making plays on the ball.”
One highlight of Sunday was Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb posting an official time of 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He was initially clocked as low as 4.21.
For those doubting Milliner’s speed or talent, the Crimson Tide corner simply repeated, “Watch the NFL Combine.”
He works out on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday.