INDIANAPOLIS –- Alabama junior Dee Milliner might be the top-ranked cornerback in the class, but analysts question whether he has the elite athleticism to be a lead cover man in the NFL. Confidence, he said, is a necessity he doesn't leave home without.
Driven by questions of whether he can match up with NFL receivers, Milliner said he can make a "big difference" changing minds this week. So, to people with those doubts: "Watch the NFL Combine."
Milliner will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder but is first participating in defensive back workouts in Indianapolis on Tuesday. He'll pass only on the bench press for obvious reasons and has 20 formal interviews scheduled to begin Monday.
"It was fine, everybody knows I have the torn labrum," Milliner said. "When I have surgery (March 12), it'll be probably two months (rehab)."
He played through the injury last season and didn't miss any time. There are plenty of teams with draft picks in the top 10 in need of cornerback help. Detroit has the fifth overall pick and is often being linked to the Crimson Tide All-American.
Milliner said he was hurt in Alabama's 29-24 loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 10. He doesn't believe he was limited in any way playing with the injury but knew an operation was necessary to repair it. He didn't want to leave NFL teams or media to wonder about his health status by having surgery in January, erasing his chance to paritipate in the combine and his Pro Day.
Milliner said it was necessary to participate in the combine to show he wasn't limited physically, but his game tape -- notably the BCS championship game, when Notre Dame tried testing him repeatedly -- speaks loudly about his pro potential.
"This league's filled with guys who have had major injuries in college and have bounced back and have had successful NFL careers," Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
Milliner (5-foot-11, 198) started for essentially three years for Nick Saban. As a sophomore he had a fracture in his shin. After starting as a freshman, he shared the starting job with DeQuan Menzie. He was listed at 6-foot-1 by Alabama, but plays bigger because of long arms his preferred bump technique. He has the combination of size and athleticism to fit in almost any defensive scheme.
"The way coach Saban coaches and teaches you different things -- not just go in there and watching film but on and off the field," he said.
Milliner said he studies his closest peers in this cornerback class -- Xavier Rhodes of Florida State and Desmond Trufant of Washington -- but also appreciates the flash and confidence of Deion Sanders.
"Every DB that gets their first pick, you've got to do that (dance)," Milliner said with a smile.