Rams Pick Johnson, Bills Select Milano in NFL Draft

John Johnson

On Friday night, with the 27th pick of the third round in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams selected safety John Johnson. The former Boston College captain becomes the second Eagles defensive back selected in the third round in as many years, joining Justin Simmons, who was taken 98th overall in last year’s draft.

Johnson, at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, presents new Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips a talented, multipurpose rookie, with the positioning and ball skills to spend time at both safety and cornerback. His size should allow him to handle larger receivers in the slot and select matchups against opposing tight ends. Johnson also possesses the physicality to drop down into the box and help slow down an opponent’s ground game. Assignments that gear more towards man coverage or short zones appear to be his most favorable, though he is still serviceable as the deep safety. Given the Rams’ lack of safety depth and the NFL’s growing propensity to play at least five defensive backs on most downs, Johnson has an excellent chance to see meaningful snaps this season and an outside shot to become a starter early in the season.

Johnson was the 10th safety selected in this year’s draft. His maturity and leadership skills—Johnson was named the recipient of this season’s Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship Award—have helped him throughout the draft process, casting him as an NFL-ready player. Over the prior two seasons at BC—where he played first strong safety and then free safety, after the departure of Simmons—Johnson amassed 110 solo tackles and six interceptions. His college highlights include a career-high 12 tackles in BC’s 36-30 victory in the Quick Lane Bowl over Maryland this past season and six tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception in BC’s highly anticipated Holy War matchup at Fenway Park against No. 5 Notre Dame in 2015.

Saturday afternoon, another BC player heard his name called from the podium in Philadelphia, as former Eagles linebacker Matt Milano was selected with the 19th pick of the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills.

At 6 foot and 223 pounds, Milano has been labeled as a bit undersized throughout the draft process. But a ferocious competitive streak and a mentality that drives him to play like a “heat-seeking missile who looks for contact” combined to make him an appealing choice for teams on the final day of the draft.

Like Johnson, Milano is a highly versatile player. Recruited to BC as a safety, the Orlando native excelled as a strongside linebacker the last few seasons, as well as on special teams. Atlantic Coast Conference media voted him honorable mention all-conference after a junior season in which he had 60 tackles—including a team-high 17.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks—two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. This past season, he earned an honorable mention all-ACC nod from coaches and media, tallying 58 tackles—including 11 for loss and 6.5 sacks—one interception and one blocked punt. His ability to stuff the run, get after the quarterback as a blitzer and quickly stop screens and short passes makes him valuable in today’s NFL, where linebackers must be able to handle running backs and receivers in the area surrounding the line of scrimmage.

Due to his size limitations, Milano may have to move to weakside linebacker at the professional level, where he can be free use his instincts without being deterred in his pursuit by several lead blockers. His role, at least early in his career, will likely come in a sub-package on passing downs. There, he will provide the size and physicality to defend the occasional run, as well as the ability to keep the ball in front of him and prevent short passes from turning into lengthy gains.

No doubt new Bills coach Sean McDermott—who coached Luke Kuechly in Carolina—is highly anticipating the ability to mold another BC linebacking product.

Johnson and Milano are the 10th and 11th players selected in the NFL Draft under head coach Steve Addazio—however, they are only the first and second that were recruited by BC’s man in charge.  

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor