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BSN Breakdown: Is Von Miller an elite NFL talent?

Ken Pomponio Avatar
June 25, 2015


Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller recently checked in at No. 33 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2015 list.

That’s a sizable leap of 43 spots from his 2014 ranking, but it’s still either too low (for those in Broncos Country who break out their No. 58 jerseys every Sunday, football season or not) or too high (for those who still have fresh memories of Miller’s suspension- and injury-addled nine-game 2013 season) for the majority of fans.

But is the fifth-year pro – a.k.a. the 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a three-time Pro Bowler – truly an elite NFL talent?

As is SOP in this series, we break down the pertinent numbers and let them do the talking.

The first defensive statistic we examine is the most basic – tackles – and since donning the orange and lbue as the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, Miller is tied for 102nd in the league with 180 solo stops – 232 total, adding assists – in four seasons.

Elite that is not, but just about every Broncos backer knows that’s not how No. 58 is deployed on D.

So let’s get to the true measuring sticks of a pass-rushing linebacker and an impact defensive player: Sacks, tackles for losses and forced fumbles.

When it comes to regular-season sacks over the last four seasons, Miller comes in third with 49 – trailing two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt (57) and Jared Allen (51) and ranking just ahead of Justin Houston (48) and a pair of cats named Elvis Dumervil (47) and DeMarcus Ware (47).

Miller’s ardent backers are quick to point out, though, that their man has missed a total of eight regular-season games during his career, meaning he’s made eight fewer starts than Watt and seven fewer than Allen over the last four seasons. So in terms of average sacks per game, Miller’s computes to .875, which puts him ahead of Allen (.810) but still trails Watt (.891) and also comes in slightly behind the 49ers’ Aldon Smith (.880) to still place him third among players with at least 30 sacks over the last four years.

An elite ranking, though, no matter how you slice it.

As for tackles for losses, the figures I tallied at teamrankings.com credit Miller with 76 during his career to easily place him second in the league during the 2011-14 span. Of course, you know who’s first – by a mile – with 100 TFLs (Hint: His initials are JJW).

Looking at TFL per-game averages, Watt comes in first at 1.56, while Miller is still second at 1.36, ranking just ahead of three-year Bucs’ ’backer Lavonte David (1.24) – yes, the stud defender Tampa swooped up the pick immediately after the Broncos selected Brock Osweiler 57th overall – and the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul (1.03).

Of the players who have racked up at least 40 TFLs during the last four seasons, Watt, Miller, David and JPP are the only four to average at least one per game.

Again, rather impressive.

Finally, we look at forced fumbles, and Miller is tied for seventh with 13 “FFs” since the start of the 2011 campaign. Veteran cornerback and strip specialist Charles “Peanut” Tillman, formerly of the Bears and now with the Panthers, leads the way with 16 forced fumbles while Cliff Avril and Ryan Kerrigan are credited with 15 a piece.

Watt? Believe it or not, he “only” has 12 forced fumbles to rank 11th.

In the end, though, three impact defensive statistical categories and three top-seven rankings for Mr. Miller — the only defender in the league who can make that claim.

Perhaps we’ll talk about his shortcomings (i.e. playoff numbers) some other column, but let’s just classify No. 58 as an elite NFL talent and leave it at that – for now.

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