Prior to being drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 15 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Kolton Miller was a soft spoken, 310-pound prospect still trying to get used to the spotlight.
A year later, Miller is noticeably more comfortable in front of the camera, more experienced on the field, and somehow even more gargantuan, now weighing in at 328 pounds.
"He's huge, you saw him. I don't know if he's gained 30 pounds or what, he looks great," Derek Carr said Tuesday of his starting left tackle. "Not being weird, but the man looks like he's ready."
Following the team's first day of Organized Team Activities, Miller met with the media, towering over the podium – which only came up to his waist – and fielded questions regarding his rookie season, his added size, and comfortability with the speed of the game entering his second season.
"Oh, way better," he said about how comfortable he is now versus last year. "I'm seeing the rookies struggle a little bit now and it kind of brings me back to last year, but yeah the game has slowed down a lot for sure."
Miller dealt with highs and lows in 2018 – like any rookie – but the 23-year-old battled through adversity and injuries to start in all 16 games last year. Game experience can't be replicated, especially for a young player trying to build confidence at the professional level, and it provided Miller with lessons that couldn't be taught off the field.
"I think it's just game experience," he said when asked about the biggest benefit from last year. "Just having that experience underneath your belt, playing all those snaps, even with injury, I think it helped me tremendously."
Part of Miller's struggles last year stemmed from an injury he dealt with during the second half of the season, but Head Coach Jon Gruden is confident that with Miller's added size he can stay healthy and become the starting left tackle they envision he can be.
"We think Kolton Miller is going to be one of the best at left tackles in football," Gruden told reporters yesterday. "He's not only healthy, he's in great shape. He's gotten a lot stronger. He's added some weight and some muscle. He's still a real flexible athlete that can run and change directions. Being in the second year of the system, I expect a lot of good things. We still have to solve the left guard and that will be a big part of his development as well."
To Gruden's point, let's not forget that Miller was among the top performers at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. The former UCLA Bruin ranked top-three in a handful of categories, such as the 20-yard shuttle, 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, and has the best broad jump of any offensive lineman in the last 10 years (10'1"). He's an athletic freak and with his 328-pound, 6'8" frame he has all the tools to anchor the left side and protect Carr for a long time.
"He's worked his tail off, and I knew that about him all season," Carr said. "When he was playing early in the season, he was locking some people up, and then when he got hurt, he never missed a practice, never missed a rep in practice.
The Raiders starting quarterback continued, "He's super quiet, so you all don't get to see that side of him, but I've seen him grind his teeth, really bear down in certain situations where I've seen other people cower away to be honest with you. He hasn't shown that, not even close, and to see him come in how big and strong he is in the weight room and how much it meant to him, it was really cool to see. It confirmed everything I believed about him."
With the pressure of his rookie season in the rearview mirror, Miller enters 2019 with a new level of confidence, an upgraded physique, and clear of any ailments that limited his production last year. Paired with recently signed tackle Trent Brown manning the other tackle position, the Raiders offensive line will feature two 6'8" behemoths both weighing in over 325 pounds.
Good luck to anyone facing these two.