-Is he fast, or is everyone around him slow? (I can never tell)
-Always goes for the hard hit, could do a better job of wrapping up
-Prone to over-pursuing the ball carrier
-Average instincts and ball skills in coverage
When I watch California University (the one in Pennsylvania) safety Rontez Miles, I always find myself asking one question; is he really that fast, or is everyone around him slow? I can’t tell. According to nfldraftscout.com, he runs a 4.56 40. For a 6’0, 206lbs safety, that’s average; neither elite nor poor. But on film, his athleticism seems nothing short of terrific. On film, the guy who blocks this punt seems like a guy who runs a 4.40 40 (he blocks about 5 punts in the video). And if he is the athlete he appears to be on film, he’s one of the most underrated prospects of the draft. If my mind is deceived, he’s still a solid player that’s worth a fifth round pick, but he probably doesn’t have star potential.
I want to make one thing clear right off the bat: I didn’t scout him via highlight tape. I only write about players that I can see on TV, so I can see games in their entirety, the good, and the bad. So how did I get Miles film? Believe it or not, California University of Pennsylvania has a TV deal with Fox College Sports Atlantic (don’t ask me why), and I have seen about 3 or 4 of their games since Miles’ junior season, scouting Miles. So the stuff written here is not based on highlight tape. It’s based on film.
A little background info on Miles; he’s a Kent State transfer who went to high school with Rob Gronkowski. He was abandoned by his father at a young age. According to one source, he transferred from Kent State due to poor grades (another source says he left when his brother was kicked off the team), and, like many others, transferred to Cal (PA). The football team sort of has a history of being willing to allow any player suspended/expelled from a DI school to play with them, from Miles, to Rishaw Johnson, Peter Lalich, and other transfers from schools like Pitt, Michigan, Michigan State, West Virginia, UCLA, and even a variety of FCS schools. It’s not even the first time of scouted a player from the school (Johnson was the first). Most details on Miles past is fuzzy. I think I read somewhere that he was recruited by SEC schools, but went to Kent State to play with his brother (but don’t quote me on that). Regardless of his unknown past, I do believe he cares about football, based on the effort and intensity with which he plays the game. I believe he has the same skin disease that Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva has, but I don’t think there are any football related side effects. I’m just including every piece of information I know about him.
Miles is pretty solid against the run. For one thing, he is a phenomenal tackler for a safety. On the downside, he often tries to lean with his head/shoulders and tries to murder people when he makes tackles. He’s athletic enough so that this works fairly consistently at the college level, but it won’t be perfect in the pros, plus he runs the risk of drawing penalties (surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve seen him hit the ball carrier’s helmet, but he’s often pretty close). That being said, he’s also very effective when he does choose to wrap up. I’ve only seen him miss one tackle, and he’s really good at preventing yards after contact. He is a quick processor with the instincts to know where a play is going, but this ability is occasionally nullified by poor angles to the ball. He definitely got worse in that area in 2012; I was ready to call him a second round pick after he literally played a flawless game against St. Cloud State as a junior (no matter what the competition, I’ve seen a player play so well in a game for me to consider it flawless about 3-5 times in my lifetime), but, as a senior, his instincts have regressed and he has become a little mistake prone. Against the run, he knows how to find holes in the blocking scheme, but he doesn’t take perfect angles to the ball and his lateral range is average at best. He’s average at shedding blocks, as his good strength and poor fundamentals basically cancel each other out. Still, his strength, tackling, and instincts make him a net positive in this area.
Against the pass, Miles is pretty inconsistent. As a junior, once again, he could do no wrong against St. Cloud State, and that held true for coverage, but he took a step back in coverage this year. He would occasionally take wild angles to the ball, he was too aggressive, and he seemed far less instinctive. His ability to blow up screens is lost and he occasionally allows big plays. That being said, he can do impressive things in coverage. He jars the ball loose with punishing hits as well as any safety I’ve ever seen. His hands are average, but he knows how to breakup passes, and he also can blitz. He has loose hips, awesome change of direction skills, solid quickness, great instincts of the snap count, and terrific football speed, all of which help him get to the quarterback (and block insane amounts of punts). And again, he’s shown he can be impressive in coverage. I just want consistency. In addition, I haven’t seen him play much man coverage, but when he is in man, he’s quite effective. His instincts in man coverage are better and his loose hips and solid speed play to his advantage. In the end, he decent against the pass.
One thing I would like to say; I mentioned that I felt he took a step back this season. His instincts seemed worse in all phases and he didn’t take great angles to the ball. And I need to say, it kind of reminds me of someone from the football team from my high school (I do stats). My high school doesn’t have a terrific team (one of the more mediocre teams of DI in Ohio), and we play pretty weak competition. In 2011, we had one sophomore on our defense who was easily our best defensive player. He looked like he could be starting for any team in Ohio. He had (and still has) the talent to play in a BCS conference. But, in 2012, he took a step back. He played recklessly, taking poor angles to the ball and making lots of mistakes. He also seemed less strong. I was talking about him with a friend, who starts on the football team, and he said “If I was as good as [that player], I’d be an (expletive) too.” Honestly, it’s a fair point. The guy was years ahead of his competition and let his ego get the best of him, at least for one year. He was a man among boys as a sophomore and a lazy man among boys as a junior. To some extent, I think that’s what happened to Miles. He stayed in good shape, but he didn’t focus on the finer elements of his game last off-season. I don’t think he spent much time watching film and doing the other essential things needed to be a good football player this off-season, and he let his ego get the best of him. But, at the same time, it’s hard to blame him. He was a man among boys. It’s not a surprise that he may have gotten a little complacent with his game. The upside to this is that his ego will disappear the minute he gets a shot in the NFL. He’ll be humbled by the amazing men he’ll see in training camps, and he’ll learn a lesson. And, if he does, he could go back to being the player I though was worthy of a second round pick. There may be one other factor. I read an article about Miles that talked about his close relationship with his brother, Vondre Griffin, who was arrested over the summer on a charge of criminal homicide. It was a very tough time for Rontez, and football may have been the furthest thing from his mind for much of the year. His stock has slipped, but he could be a surprise.
As little as I can say with certainty regarding Miles’ basic physical tools, the one thing I know for sure is that he has a great build. I still struggle to gauge his true speed, simply because I can’t figure out if he is fast or simply fast by comparison to DIII players. But he has an ideal build. Good size and every ounce of weight on that body is muscle. He has the body of an NFL player.
I think Miles is pretty underrated. I think he has a lot of potential, and, once he stops being complacent with his game (which I believe will happen the minute he goes against something more challenging than DIII competition). Worst case scenario, he’ll still block a punt or two given the chance at that NFL level.
NFL Comparison: He has the potential to be T.J. Ward with an extra inch in height, if his instincts return, plus he has no injury problems
Grade: 66 (worthy of a mid to early fourth round pick)
Projection: 34 (will be a mid to late seventh round pick)