What does WR Dax Milne bring to the Washington Football Team?

What is Washington getting in its seventh-round pick?

With their final pick of the draft, the Washington Football Team drafted wide receiver Dax Milne out of BYU. The 6-foot-1, 193 pound receiver joins a suddenly crowded position group in Washington and faces an uphill battle to make the final roster. Terry McLaurin and free agent acquisition Curtis Samuel are locks as the teams top two targets while third-round receiver Dyami Brown adds even more speed outside and is another lock to make the team. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s recommendation of Adam Humphries likely makes him a lock too, which gives Washington it’s top four receivers. 

After those four, Cam Sims would appear to be likely to make the team after some promising performances last year. He adds some size and leaping ability which diversifies the group. Washington could carry six or maybe reach for a seventh receiver, but that would leave at most two spots for Milne to compete with the likes of Kelvin Harmon, Steven Sims, Isaiah Wright, Antonio Gandy-Golden and Deandre Carter for.

It’ll clearly be a tough task for Milne to make the team. There’s a lot of competition for places and Milne isn’t an outstanding athlete in comparison to the other receivers on the roster. Sims is faster, Wright is quicker, Harmon and Gandy-Golden offer more size and catch radius. So what can he bring to Washington that can set him apart from the rest of the group fighting for the final spots in the receiver room? Let’s take a closer look.

The first game I watched of Milne was against Houston and this was the first offensive snap of the game for BYU. Milne aligns outside to the left of the formation and runs a go route. He sets up the route well, releasing off the line of scrimmage with a nice shuffle step inside to get the corner to bite before bursting back outside. While Milne gets on top of the corner early, as they progress down the field the corner does a good job getting back in phase, meaning he gets back to hip level and even ahead of Milne at one point. However, Milne turns to track the ball in the air and adjusts his pace to run under it perfectly. The corner attempts to locate the ball in the air while also trying to feel for Milne. He ends up diving to try and play the ball, but misses. Milne makes a solid catch at full stretch despite the corner distracting him. He then secures the pass and sprints down the sideline to complete a 79-yard touchdown.

That’s a pretty solid start to a game and one hell of a way to make a first impression. But the key takeaways from that play weren’t blazing speed down the field, because that’s not what he offers. He showed a nice release off the line to beat press coverage, then tracked the ball down the field well before making a nice catch. Ball skills like tracking and obviously catching are critically important for receivers, as is the ability to release off the line of scrimmage. These were things Milne showed consistently.

Later in the same game, BYU works down into the red zone. Milne splits out to the right side this time on a fade route. Once again we see a nice release off the line. Milne hops outside slowly before taking a few quick steps inside to sell a quick in-breaking route. Once the corner stops his feet, Milne runs by him down the sideline and tracks a nice throw over his shoulder to pull in the touchdown.

Ball skills and releases are two of Milne’s strengths that show up routinely when watching him. It wasn’t just that one game against Houston either.

This is another fade route for Milne, but this time against San Diego State. Milne uses the same release technique as the last play for this route and also manages to swat down the hand of the corner as he runs by him. Milne gets on top of the corner, forcing the corner to turn and run with his back to the quarterback. The quarterback knows with the corner still relatively tight to Milne, but with his back turned, he can work a back shoulder throw and the corner won’t be able to cover it. He rips a throw and Miln tracks it well. He waits until the last moment to adjust his body so he doesn’t tip the location of the ball to the cornerback. Just as the ball arrives Milne opens up and catches it before the corner can do anything about it.

Ball skills and releases will only go so far in the NFL though, especially without the elite speed to go with it. But Milne has more to his game than that. He’s an intelligent receiver that understands how to make himself available to the quarterback.

Here, Milne is isolated to the left of the formation and runs a shallow cross. Shallow crossing routes can be simple, just run across the field, but some teams will give the receiver a read. Against man coverage, the receiver will just run across the field like normal, but if the defense is playing zone, that won’t work. So against zone, the shallow cross receiver can be asked to sit down somewhere in the middle of the field in between zones. That’s precisely what Milne does here. He starts running across the middle of the field on his shallow cross, but feels his defender peel off into zone coverage. That tells Milne it’s zone coverage, so he breaks off his route and looks to sit down in the middle of the field. It’s a clever route and read, but Milne tops it off by adjusting to a throw that goes behind him significantly. He reaches out with one hand and pulls in a terrific one-handed catch effortlessly before turning up the field to maximise the gain.

Milne might not have the great athleticism to make the team as a burner down the field or jump ball receiver, but one path that might work for him is kicking inside to the slot. In terms of measurables, he’s not too dissimilar from Humphries and he would appear to have the smarts to play inside and find holes in the defense. He doesn’t have the explosiveness as a route runner that Steven Sims has inside, which creates separation with quickness, but he is a solid route runner of his own right.

On this play, Milne runs an out-and-up from the slot against Boise State. He initially widens his path to get the slot corner to widen with him. That makes the corner believe he’s creating space to break inside. Milne sells a little fake inside which gets the corner to stop his feet for just long enough for Milne to break outside and get by him. Milne then throws in a head fake to sell the out route, forcing the defender to commit to breaking down on the out route as he tries to recover on the play. That enables Milne to create plenty of separation as he breaks up the field. The throw isn’t perfect and Milne has to slow down and work back inside, allowing the corner to catch up, but Milne pulls in an impressive catch, again showing off those ball skills.

Running routes from the slot requires precision and Milne showed there he is able to provide that. He still has some areas to sharpen up and improve on with regards to route running, but it’s certainly a positive for him. The other positive he has going for him as a potential slot receiver is how he understands when the quarterback is in trouble and how to make himself available for him. Milne was very good working off-script and giving the quarterback an option when plays broke down.

Here, Milne works in the slot and runs an interesting route. He starts off running a quick stop route, almost as if he’s faking a screen and trying to get the defense to bite up. After a brief pause, he then takes off running across the middle of the field on a shallow cross. He feels the defense in zone coverage so he tries to sit down in a howl underneath the linebackers, but spots his quarterback scrambling in the pocket. He feels the quarterback buying time by rolling out to the left and takes off running. Milne works off-script, but finds a hole on the coverage while working in the same direction the quarterback breaks out of the pocket. That makes him easily seen and available for the throw. What could have been a sack ends up turning into a 20-yard completion thanks to Milne. 

Having that understanding with a quarterback when working off-script will make Milne a favorite target. He had the opportunity to build that understanding with Zach Wilson at BYU over a number of years, but he might not get that chance in Washington. However, if he can find a connection with Washington’s quarterbacks in OTAs and training camp, then being a quarterback-friendly target that is a smart and effective route runner could make him an option in the slot.

Overall I think Milne’s chances of making the final roster are still slim. He certainly has talent to work with, the ball skills and releases are impressive, and the route running is solid with room to grow. I think his best path to making this team is more as a versatile option that can play outside like he did in college but also offer depth in the slot, where his route running, knack for finding holes in zones and rapport with the quarterback can shine. He’ll need a lot of things to break his way to beat out strong competition for the final spots in the receiver room, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they saw a little bit of Adam Humphries in him and tried to develop him in that manner.