When the Texans used a third-round pick on Ohio State's Braxton Miller, they were betting on more than just his potential, they were betting on his development. Not in the same way the Rams bet on Jared Goff to develop into a franchise quarterback, because Goff has played quarterback his entire life, but in a way that will require Miller to master a brand new position at the highest possible level.
Miller spent the majority of his college career at quarterback, but transitioned into his new role as a wide receiver in 2015. He ended up compiling a modest stat line of 25 receptions, 340 yards, and three touchdowns, adding another touchdown on the ground.
Still, the Texans took a chance on Miller this past May. And their reasoning behind the decision makes sense. According to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, they drafted Miler with a "multidimensional role" in mind.
"Braxton Miller, just a versatile player, explosive player," said general manager Rick Smith, per the Chronicle. "Trying to impact our football team, adding players who can add dimensions to our football team who can make plays with the ball in their hands, and certainly he can do that."
Smith's not wrong:
Braxton Miller was +3300 to win the Heisman. I think we're going to shave two 0s off that: pic.twitter.com/F4WNaMwZTa— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) September 8, 2015
"I like having the ball in my hands and making people miss," Miller said. "If I'm back there returning and I'm going back on offense, that's a cheat code. That's a way to get the ball in a playmaker's hands. I'm available no matter what they want me to do."
The question isn't if Miller's athleticism translates over to the NFL (it does), it's if he can develop into a dynamic player without the ball so quarterback Brock Osweiler can target him in the passing game on more than just gimmicky plays. That's the big if in all of this: Can Miller turn into a competent enough route runner against NFL defenses?
According to Texans receivers coach Sean Ryan, he can.
"Yeah, I think the thing with him is he works at it, he wants to pick things up," Ryan said. "He wants to be good. I think he's got a little chip on his shoulder understanding that there were some people out there that thought there would be this large learning curve for him and weren't sure about him being a receiver.
"I think that helps to fuel him and he's a competitive guy. He wants to learn and he's smart enough to learn and those are the two biggest factors to me."
The good news is that Miller won't be thrown into a starting role immediately. The Texans already have DeAndre Hopkins (111 receptions, 1,521 yards, and 11 touchdowns last year) as their No. 1 wideout and drafted burner Will Fuller in the first round, which should allow the team to exercise patience with their developmental playmaker.
As CBS Sports' Dane Brugler wrote before the draft, "he showed signs of being able to translate his ability to read defenses as a passer to reading coverages in his routes, but is still unpolished in this area and will need time as he continues his development at wide receiver."
At the very worst, Miller will serve as a gadget player with the ability to hit the home-run ball. The best-case scenario is far scarier for the rest of the NFL to imagine.