When linebacker Matt Milano was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he was mostly an afterthought. As the first of two fifth-round choices, he was overshadowed by the second of those selections, quarterback Nathan Peterman, because anything involving the quarterback position will always garner more attention than anything else in football roster moves.
Once the preseason began, it was clear that Milano was going to contribute to the team, but the question was whether he would do so as a special teams player or as a sub-package linebacker. Few thought that he would end up in the starting lineup on defense, but once he entered the lineup, he made his presence known. Overall, his rookie season was incredibly positive.
2017 Cap Hit (per Spotrac): $530,376 (0.34% of 2017 Cap)
2017 Cap Hit Rank by Position: 116th among linebackers
2017 Vital Stats: 16 games, 5 starts (40.61% defensive snaps; 51.72% ST snaps), 43 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD
While Milano’s tackle numbers certainly aren’t huge, his real strength was in coverage. As the best of Buffalo’s linebackers against the pass, he did a nice job playing mid-level zones as the year progressed. For context, Milano was in on defending as many passes (3) as Preston Brown was, and Milano played 648 fewer snaps than Buffalo’s middle linebacker.
According to Pro Football Focus, Milano graded out at a 72.2, or an “average” grade, for his rookie season. While not an overwhelming number, that was good for the highest score among all Buffalo linebackers, and it also put him at number 41 overall.
Going forward, it’s clear that Milano fits as a nickel linebacker, and his speed and ability to diagnose plays while moving downhill bodes well for his ability to hold up as a three-down player as his career progresses. Overall, the Bills found a diamond in the rough during round five of the NFL Draft.
Best 2017 Bills salary cap values
10. QB Tyrod Taylor (article)
9. LB Preston Brown (article)
8. LT Dion Dawkins (article)
7. LB Matt Milano (article)
6. CB E.J. Gaines (article)
5. RB LeSean McCoy (article)
4. OG Richie Incognito (article)
3. FS Micah Hyde (article)
2. SS Jordan Poyer (article)
1. CB Tre’Davious White (article)