Kolton Miller was thrown into the fire as a rookie and came out with burn marks. The Raiders’ surprise first-round draft pick from UCLA was put into the starting lineup at left tackle from Game 1 and forced to learn on the job, even while dealing with injuries that at times inhibited his movement.
Though head coach Jon Gruden gave Miller a vote of confidence late in the season and praised his toughness, Miller didn’t play as well as the Raiders had hoped. As Austin Gayle of the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted, Miller suffered a sprain of his medial collateral ligament in Week 4, then re-injured it in Week 9. But, he put on a brace and continued to play.
Pro Football Focus graded Miller the 60th best offensive tackle in the NFL among qualifiers (at least 550 snaps), 60th best as a pass blocker and 61st as a run blocker. Miller allowed a league-high 16 sacks and a league-worst 65 pressures.
As Gayle noted, Miller’s season was “underwhelming.” Yet Miller – if he can regain his health – has great quickness. With the lessons learned in 2018, he has the chance to be much, much better in Year 2.
“Miller is a 6-foot-8, 309-pound specimen with outstanding athletic ability chock full of potential – a project player by all means,” he wrote. “His first-round pedigree doesn’t change that, nor should it change the fact that Miller needs time and working limbs to reach his potential.
“Yes, things couldn’t have gone much worse in Year 1 of Miller’s NFL career, but few expected him to blow the doors off the league in 2018. Jon Gruden picked Miller for his potential, for his future. Picking Miller as high as he did was a risk, but picking Miller himself was not.”
For much of the season, rookies Miller and Brandon Parker (right tackle) were in the starting lineup. When they struggled, the offense struggled. But Parker believes he and Miller will thrive from the experience.
“We may not be getting the results we (wanted), but the whole time, we’re building, we’re learning,” Parker said of the rookie class and newcomers in 2018. “A lot of guys got valuable playing time this year are going to come back so much better next year.”