Over the last two years, the Buffalo Bills have added plenty of talent via the NFL Draft. Of Buffalo’s 22 starting players in 2018, the team drafted six of them within the last two seasons; assuming that Ed Oliver and Cody Ford become starters in 2019, that brings the total to eight starters in three years.
When a team drafts a player in the first or second round, it expects that player to start right away in most cases. When a team drafts a player in the fifth round, that isn’t the expectation. However, when a late-round player not only earns a starting position, but flourishes, that provides the team with the best possible scenario: a talented player at a low cost.
In the latest installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one such late-round find, a speedy linebacker who can play on all downs and in all situations.
Name: Matt Milano
Height/Weight: 6’ 223 lbs.
Age: 24 (25 on 7/28/19)
Experience/Draft: 3 years; drafted in the fifth round (163 overall) by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 NFL Draft
College: Boston College
Acquired: Fifth-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Milano enters the third year of his four-year rookie contract, a deal that pays him $2,661,506 in total. For the 2019 season, Milano will count $710,376 against the salary cap.
2018 Recap: Milano had a breakout 2018, starting all 13 of the games in which he played. His season ended prematurely thanks to a broken leg suffered against the New York Jets in Week 14. Even though he missed the team’s final three games, he was still fourth in total tackles (78), second in interceptions (3), fourth in pass breakups (7), tied for second in forced fumbles (2), first in fumble recoveries (3), and second in tackles for loss (12). He also added a sack—the first of his career. It was a phenomenal year for the young linebacker, as he clearly filled up the stat sheet while developing into a legitimate three-down force.
Positional outlook: Milano will start at linebacker provided he is back to full health. He figures to see the second-most reps at the position behind middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Veteran Lorenzo Alexander rounds out the starting trio. Those who will vie for backup spots include Maurice Alexander, Tyrel Dodson, Juwan Foggie, Vosean Joseph, Deon Lacey, Julian Stanford, and Corey Thompson.
2019 Offseason: Milano has been rehabbing his leg injury, and he said back in March that he would be ready to go by minicamp this year.
2019 Season outlook: Milano looks to be a fantastic addition to the team, and his 2018 season was one of the biggest positives for the Bills. If he can return at full strength and build off of what was an outstanding second season, he gives the Bills a second young linebacker capable of stuffing the run and defending the pass. Milano should continue to grow and improve upon his solid 2018 campaign.