A team’s last pick in the draft is a throw of the dice, especially when that pick is #258 in a draft that had 259 players selected. Remember that drafts in recent years have only had 256 players selected; it was the addition of compensatory draft picks awarded for specific minority hires at the head coach and front office levels that expanded the draft by three selections this year. So, grabbing a 1,000-yard receiver from a Division I program two spots after last year’s Mr. Irrelevant (Tae Crowder, LB, Georgia) and one spot before this year’s (Grant Stuard, LB, Houston) feels pretty good.
In fact, it feels a little bit like Washington's own "Mr. Irrelevant" from the 2018 draft, Trey Quinn, who also had one big year as a junior, putting up over 1,200 yards and catching 13 TDs at SMU. That selection looked promising when Quinn was a training camp rookie, but didn't really work out so well as a long-term wager. Washington will be hoping that the selection of Dax Milne from BYU pays off in a much bigger way.
Milne is not a small school guy — he played at Brigham Young University. Of course, the first couple of BYU guys I think of in the NFL are quarterbacks — Steve Young and Jim McMahon (oh yeah, and Zach Wilson), but the school also produced tight end Todd Christianson, our own Kurt Gouveia, and Kyle van Noy, just to name a few from the long list of former Cougars to play in the NFL.
Often described as a “small receiver”, Milne is also not tiny; listed on the WFT team page at 6’0” and 190 pounds, the 21-year-old is similar in size and speed to veteran teammate Adam Humphries, who is 5’11’, 195 pounds and who ran a 4.53 40-time at his Combine. Milne’s 40-time at his pro day was a very similar 4.54 seconds. The comparison to Trey Quinn is unsettling as well; Quinn is 6'0", 200 pounds and ran a 4.55 40-time at his Combine.
While Milne played as a wide receiver at BYU, in the NFL, he is likely to play the same position as Humphries and Quinn; that is, he will probably be a slot receiver. Washington is gambling that he has the right skills to make the transition.
Milne had a highly productive season as a true junior in 2020, pulling in 70 receptions for 1,188 yards and 8 touchdowns, which is very similar to Dyami Brown’s 2020 production at UNC. Milne’s 17 yards-per-reception average look pretty gaudy too.
That said, Dax Milne doesn’t have the speed of some of his teammates like Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel or even Dyami Brown. Milne is very much a possession receiver with limited big play ability, though he has good size for the slot position in addition to having impressive quickness and foot speed in short areas, which is ideal for a slot receiver.
Milne also struggles to separate downfield, but in short to intermediate areas Milne shows good awareness for defensive soft spots, which should be key to NFL success — especially versus zone defenses. Milne has very strong hands and rarely drops passes, which is a trait that can’t be overvalued at any position, but is an absolute necessity for a slot receiver. He will not give a team very much after the catch production, but Milne quickly gets open underneath and holds onto the football through contact.
With the depth in the wide receiver room in general, and at the slot receiver position in particular, Milne may have a hard time making the regular season roster, but his draft pedigree should be enough to keep him on the practice squad if he shows any special teams proficiency. Personally, I think he'll face a tough battle to make the regular season 53-man roster. Practice squad seems his likely destiny in 2021.
Washington, of course, already has a few options at the slot position. The depth chart includes:
- Adam Humphries
- Steven Sims
- DeAndre Carter
all of whom have NFL experience. The competition away from the slot is similar, with Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims and Antonio Gandy-Golden all ahead of Milne in the race to fill the last couple of spots in the receiver room.
Prior to the draft, it looked like the team was likely to rely on Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel on the outside, with Adam Hurmphies as the presumed ‘starting’ slot receiver.
With the drafting of Dyami Brown, however, offensive coordinator Scott Turner acquired a lot more flexibility. Now, he can put Brown on the outside with Samuel in the slot if he wants a speed package, or he can go bigger by, say, putting Logan Thomas and Cam Sims on the field together. The idea of a standard x, y, z alignment with starter & backup probably doesn’t apply so much to this offense.
In short, a lot of people are likely to line up in the slot position this season, including Humphries, Samuel, Cam Sims, any of the tight ends, or even running backs like Antonio Gibson or JD McKissic. The Washington Football Team roster has suddenly become very crowded at the offensive skill positions.
This makes Milne a developmental player who might need to toil on the practice squad for a season or two in order to earn his way onto the regular roster. Getting a spot on the roster as the last receiver requires a player to contribute on special teams. While that may be as a gunner on the punt team, for Milne, it probably entails being also being a punt returner.
He has some return experience from BYU. As a sophomore, he returned 5 punts for 57 yards, and as a junior he had 7 returns for 3 yards. This is not an extremely impressive resume, especially given that one of his competitors for the slot receiver position, DeAndre Carter, has 63 NFL punt returns for 589 yards and 45 NFL kickoff returns for 983 yards, while Humphries also boasts 63 punt returns for 503 yards in his NFL career. Milne will have to really impress special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor on the field to win a special teams spot.
In short, Dax Milne seems to be just what you expect from a late 7th-round draft pick; he’s a player with some skills who probably needs some development. He’s also 21 years old, and players who are under 22 years of age when they are drafted have an advantage when it comes to putting together a successful NFL career. Milne may not yet be the complete player he needs to be to earn a regular roster spot, but he’s young and he’s got time. He looks like the perfect practice squad candidate — a young and hungry player with upside potential. He looks like a low-cost gamble that may take some time before he pays off for the Washington Football Team.
Bonus: Steelers Depot did a pretty useful film review of Dax Milne ahead of the draft. Click here to see it.