With his final season in college Dee Milliner went from being a non factor in the talks of the next draft and worked his way all the way up to being considered a high first round draft pick. The day of the 2013 first round draft, the New York Jets took Dee with their 9th overall selection. Dee Milliner came to the Jets from Alabama, where he was unanimously named a first team All-American. After a sub par showing in positional drills at the combine due to too many dropped balls many thought his draft stock would be somewhat compromised, not to mention a torn labrum injury that kept him out of the bench press that had some analysts concerned that he might be injury prone.
Milliner would miss the Jets rookie training camp but make it back in time for the teams full training camp. He was then named starting cornerback opposite Antonio Cromartie and would continue to start 13 games of the season, missing the other three because of sub-par performance and subsequent benching as well as injury issues. His rookie year started off rocky and many fans were concerned that this was a wasted draft pick. Week after week Dee was beat on a regular basis, and was getting burned deep often. In his first four games he averaged a grade of -.925 from Pro Football Focus before putting up his worst performance of the season against the Bengals, earning him an abysmal grade of -3.9.
Despite consistently under performing Rex Ryan constantly defended Dee to the press saying that he was showing improvement in practice, and that it would take time for him to grow into the player he could become. Unfortunately Milliner continued to underperform and reached another down peak in the Jets loss at home to the division rival Miami Dolphins. However, this would be the last time in the season that Dee would play as bad as he had played so far.
In week 14 against the Oakland Raiders Milliner graded out on PFF at 1.6, which is good enough to qualify as a positive performance. The following week he would grade out at 0.0 meaning he wasn’t necessarily a hinderance but leaving something to be desired. In the Jets final two games of the season Dee turned a corner and would play the best football of his rookie season. Against the Browns Dee graded out at a 1.8 while also registering his first NFL interception, and although he was lucky on a couple of passes, he helped keep Josh Gordon to under 100 yards receiving and no touchdowns. The following week Dee would register another 2 interceptions on his way to his highest grade by PFF of the season at an encouraging 4.7. He then won the AFC defensive player of the week award for his performance.
From a rocky start to a strong finish Dee Milliner remains a bit of a mystery. Was his late season surge a fluke, or can we expect his play to continue to improve from here on out? Was his abysmal start in the NFL a sign that he won’t make the jump to this level or growing pains in a difficult position to transition to on this level? At one point he was so bad that opposing quarterbacks started picking on him on a regular basis, then all of a sudden he was making said quarterbacks pay the price for underestimating him. The growth he showed towards the end of the season is an encouraging sign, but he will need to keep it up to justify the high 1st round selection the Jets gave up for him.