You lost the coin toss, Raiders – now, you must settle for Kolton Miller; the 2018 NFL Draft’s silver prize at offensive tackle.
A new era was about to begin for the Silver and Black, although no one knew it was coming. The Raiders, who at the time resided in Oakland, finished their ’17 campaign as the 8th-highest ranked offensive line via Pro Football Focus. This was despite starting Marshall Newhouse at right tackle, who finished the year surrendering eight sacks and 38 pressures. Luckily, the team finished their season with a record of 6-10, putting them in prime position to draft the alleged best tackle in the draft, Mike McGlinchey.
There was just one thing standing in the Raiders’ way – a coin.
Due to both the then-Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers ending their respective campaigns with the same record (6-10) and same opponent winning percentage (.512), the two teams ended in a tie for position in the upcoming draft. The tie would be broken by a single coin-flip, rewarding the winner with the higher draft selection; the coin-flip heard around the Bay.
The Silver and Black totaled 10 losses that season, and another defeat was waiting around the corner. With the help of a coin, San Francisco gave the Raiders an additional loss, as the 49ers claimed the better draft position.
Mike McGlinchey, the gold prize at offensive tackle, fittingly ended up sporting the NFL’s iconic red and gold jerseys. Similarly, Kolton Miller, the silver prize, wound up wearing silver and black.
The Kolton Miller-Era Has Officially Begun
If a player’s rookie season defined their career, there would be no arguments against Kolton Miller being a bust.
Drafted 15th-overall in 2018, after trading down from 10th-overall, the expectations for the hopeful Raiders franchise tackle were high. With a 10’1″ broad jump at the NFL Combine, Miller claimed the Combine record for longest broad jump ever recorded by an offensive lineman. Compared to McGlinchey, Miller posted a better vertical (31.5″, Miller; 28.5″, McGlinchey) while having the bigger hand size (10 3/4, Miller; 10, McGlinchey). The pair posted the same number in bench press reps (24) and arm length (34), and even came in at the same weight (309).
Their combine numbers were neck-and-neck, but their rookie seasons couldn’t have been more different.
While Miller earned an overall grade of 49.6, McGlinchey was practically in another league with his mark of 74.8. McGlinchey’s 64.2 pass-blocking grade far surpassed Miller’s grade of 52.7, and, in run-blocking, McGlinchey earned the third-highest grade among all tackles league-wide (81.2), far outshining the Raiders tackle (46.8).
Heck, San Francisco’s first-rounder even committed 25% less penalties than Miller.
It was no surprise that McGlinchey punched his ticket into the All-Rookie team via Pro Football Writers of America, while Kolton Miller was dubbed as ‘the tackle Raider Nation got stuck with.’
Luckily, a player’s rookie season doesn’t have to mean much of anything, as both of these two would prove.
From bust, to franchise tackle
By all accounts, McGlinchey remained superior in 2019, but the gap was closing quickly. Miller’s 65.0 overall grade was comparable to McGlinchey’s 67.4, and their pass-blocking grades were equally similar (68.4, Miller; 70.5, McGlinchey). There was still a double-digit separation via grades against the run, however.
McGlinchey reached another level in 2020, earning the second-highest run-blocking grade league-wide at his position (91.3). It seemed the 49ers tackle was destined to be the better run blocker, but this was the year Miller overthrew McGlinchey in pass protection.
With a pass-blocking grade of 81.3 – the 17th-highest among tackles – Miller soared past McGlinchey’s 58.3 mark and never looked back. The Raiders up-and-coming O-line cornerstone allowed two sacks to McGlinchey’s five, and for the first time in their careers, committed less penalties.
This season was of great importance, as Miller would go on to break a long-standing streak held by the then-Oakland club. Miller became the first Raiders first-round pick since 2014 to sign a follow-up contract with the team; a streak that began after Darren McFadden’s one-year extension seven years prior.
The start of something special was happening in Las Vegas, where the team had since relocated to.
Now with a three-year, $54 million extension officially signed, it was time for Miller to prove he was worth the money. In response, the UCLA alum posted the eighth-highest overall grade among all tackles league-wide (84.0), with a sky-high 84.4 pass-blocking grade (seventh-highest), and a much-improved grade of 76.3 against the run. This sparked the turning point between their careers, as McGlinchey was given an overall grade of 69.8; 70.0 in pass protection, and 63.8 run-blocking.
The tides were actively changing as Miller began solidifying himself as one of the absolute best at his position.
The Raiders lost the coin toss way back when, but won the gold prize
During the league’s latest season, Kolton Miller managed to take yet another leap forward. The 27-year-old ended his ’22 campaign as the fifth-highest graded tackle (84.1), upping his grade against the run to 76.6 from 76.3, and leaping over his 84.4 pass-blocking grade from the year prior with a new mark of 84.8.
Once again, McGlinchey fell short in each of these categories, although the Notre Dame alum improved across the board himself (71.5 overall, 73.3 run, 65.5 pass).
The trajectory of their careers isn’t the only notable difference between the pair of draftmates. While Miller became the very first player from his draft class to sign an extension, McGlinchey failed to get a second-contract with the team that welcomed him into the NFL.
A third notable difference is how personnel around the National Football League now view the two.
Recently, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler surveyed league executives, coaches, scouts and players in order to create a list with the results. This list in particular served to figure out who NFL personnel thought to be the top-10 offensive tackles in football, currently. 21 players received votes, with Kolton Miller landing at the 10th spot. As for McGlinchey, he was not one of the 21 players to receive a vote.
Although Miller didn’t crack the NFL Top-100 list, voted by the players, he did find himself on Seth Walder’s top-100 most valuable players of 2022. Walder, an NFL analyst at ESPN, not only placed Miller in the top-100, but in the top-50 at 46.
What once seemed like a runner-up trophy has since transformed into a gold medal. Perhaps Miller has still yet to his peak.
*Top Photo: The Sacramento Bee