The Buffalo Bills selected a pair of linebackers late in the 2017 NFL Draft. While one of them ended up starting at the weakside linebacker position last season, the other played almost exclusively on special teams. Heading into his second NFL season, that special teams player will try to make a larger impact on defense, as well.
In the latest installment in our “90 players in 90 days” series, we look at a linebacker who Sean McDermott seems to think is ready to take a big step forward in his second NFL season.
Name: Tanner Vallejo
Height/Weight: 6’1” 228 lbs.
College: Boise State
Draft: Selected in the sixth round (195 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Vallejo is in the second year of a four-year rookie pact which will pay him a combined $2,553,799. In 2018, his cap hit will be $593,449
2017 Recap: Vallejo was used sparingly as a defensive player, appearing on only 13 snaps on the defensive unit as a rookie. However, he was one of Buffalo’s special teams stalwarts throughout the season, as he appeared on 58.58% of the team’s teams snaps. He did not register a single statistic during the 2017 regular season.
Positional outlook: As far as special teams ‘backers go, the Bills have four of them on the current roster—Vallejo, Julian Stanford, Ramon Humber (a starter last season), and Deon Lacy—so Vallejo has some competition. Three out of four of those players could make the roster and play special teams while the three projected starting linebackers (Matt Milano, Lorenzo Alexander, and rookie Tremaine Edmunds) handle the majority of the defensive snaps. Other competition includes Xavier Woodson-Luster and Corey Thompson.
2018 Offseason: In February, head coach Sean McDermott expressed confidence in Vallejo as the team prepared to move on from incumbent starting middle linebacker Preston Brown. While that seems to bode well for Vallejo, that was before the team signed Stanford and drafted Edmunds.
2018 season outlook: Sixth-round picks are never locks to make a roster (well, unless that sixth round pick is Tom Brady), but Vallejo has a good chance to remain with the Bills for 2018. His youth, athleticism, and experience in the defense may allow him to begin to make an impact in sub packages, especially if veteran Lorenzo Alexander struggles again in coverage. However, it’s more likely that if Vallejo makes the roster again, it’s to play on special teams.