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Thursday, April 5, 2012
A running back with home-run potential

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Corey from Orlando, Fla., asks whether the San Francisco 49ers would consider using the 30th pick in the 2012 NFL draft for Miami running back Lamar Miller.

"He's tough, like Frank Gore, he's not overly big and probably not as gritty as Gore is, but he's very fast and is also an impact running back," Corey writes. "Gore is obviously coming close to 30 and will need to be replaced within the next two years. Do the Niners go back to 'The U' to pick up their next franchise back? Kendall Hunter cannot do it alone."


Mike Sando: Miller's name came up during a conversation with Todd McShay at the combine in February. Miller was the first player McShay mentioned when I asked about playmakers available outside the top overall choices. I had the St. Louis Rams in mind because they've needed impact players on offense the most.

The chart shows Miller starting fast last season, topping 100 yards in each of his first five games, including three times against top-50 rush defenses, according to ESPN Stats & Information. A shoulder injury suffered a month into the season was likely a factor.

Miller averaged 2.1 yards per rush after contact, lowest among Scouts Inc.'s five highest-rated backs. But his big-play ability was striking.

"I give him a lot of passes on things that I am usually pretty cool on when you evaluate a running back because the guy flies," McShay said. "He is Chris Johnson. He really accelerates off his cut and he goes. He absolutely flies. Second round."

McShay wound up sending Miller to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 53 in his two-round mock draft Insider from March 28. His reference to Johnson played into my vision for Miller in St. Louis, where Johnson's former coach with the Tennessee Titans, Jeff Fisher, could use help for Steven Jackson. But the 49ers likewise need to prepare for life after Gore.