In 2013, the Eagles selected Lane Johnson with the 4th pick in the draft. Jason Peters was in his early 30s, and there was no heir apparent at left tackle. It made perfect sense – draft Johnson, get him some reps early in his career at right tackle, then move him to left tackle when Peters lost effectiveness or retired.
In 2019, the Eagles selected Andre Dillard with the 22nd pick in the draft. Jason Peters was in his late 30s, and there was no heir apparent at left tackle. It makes perfect sense – draft Dillard, have Peters give him a master class in playing left tackle, then move him into the starting lineup when Peters loses effectiveness or retires.
Most teams would not give up 4th and 6th round draft picks to move up three spots to draft a backup. The Eagles are not most teams. The Eagles also had picks to spare, as 4th round pick Shareef Miller finds himself in a roster battle and 5th round pick Clayton Thorson is pretty much a lock for the practice squad. Put simply, the Eagles already had too many depth guys.
I just can’t believe the Eagles made it so obvious they wanted an OT that the Ravens extorted two picks out of them to move up. The Eagles could have gotten Carsen Edwards with those picks!
So, will Dillard be worth not just the pick they used to draft him but the picks they gave up to move up?
Yes. Yes he will. Let’s dive in.
Andre Dillard’s College Career
Andre Dillard attended Washington State for five seasons, starting at left tackle for his last three. Playing for Mike Leach’s pass-happy system, Dillard had over 2,200 pass-blocking snaps in college. That is an insane number. Even more insane? Over 1,558 snaps his last two seasons, Dillard allowed just 3 sacks, 8 hits, and 24 hurries. Watching the tape, it’s easy to see why Dillard was so successful: Dillard has very quick feet.
Dillard’s combination of speed and balance meant that he was rarely beat by a first move, and when he was, he recovered quickly. He did not face any premier pass-rushers, so there will likely be an adjustment to NFL-level players, but after the adjustment period, Dillard should be a quality pass-blocker for a long time.
There are more questions about his ability in the run game. Dillard was not asked to run block nearly as much, and when he did run block, his results were merely average. He had the ability to square up his man, but he simply lacks the drive you’d like to see from a premier run blocker. This may be something that comes with time or something that needs to be gameplanned around. He will not be more than an average run blocker when first called upon.
Everybody Has A Type
The Eagles’ type is fast, athletic linemen:
Jason Peters: 96th percentile 40 yard dash, 97th percentile broad jump
Lane Johnson: 99th percentile 40 yard dash, 99th percentile broad jump, 95th percentile 3 cone drill
Jason Kelce: 97th percentile 40 yard dash, 92nd percentile broad jump, 97th percentile 3 cone drill
Brandon Brooks: 90th percentile 40 yard dash (pro day – not invited to combine, other measurements not available)
Isaac Seumalo: 93rd percentile 3 cone drill, 89th percentile 20 yard shuttle
Halapoulivaati Vaitai: 93rd percentile broad jump
Jordan Mailata “was timed at 5.12 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which would have been good for seventh among tackle participants at the NFL Combine in February. He also excelled in the short shuttle with a time (4.67 seconds) that would have been among the top 10 at his position.”
And Andre Dillard? 94th percentile 40 yard dash, 99th percentile broad jump, 89th percentile 3 cone drill, 98th percentile 20 yard shuttle.
Andre Dillard is the Eagles’ type. They have shown a consistent ability to maximize these types of linemen. The Eagles ask their linemen to get into space and cut off their assignments from all angles. Not all linemen are good fits in all systems. Dillard fits exactly what the Eagles look for in their linemen.
The Present and The Future
For now, Dillard is working at left tackle. This allows him to work directly with Jason Peters more often, which is the best possible situation for a young tackle entering the league. If Dillard shows progress in training camp, preseason, and in-season practice, he could be called upon should Peters miss games due to injury. If not, he will spend the season learning. Dillard may not be dressed every game once Brooks returns. Dillard was always a pick for the future, not for this season, and will only be called into significant action if the injury bug starts biting.
But the future is an interesting picture. Lane Johnson is entrenched at right tackle for the next ever. That leaves one tackle spot for Mailata and Dillard to fight over. What happens if both of them prove good enough? Well, Mailata is a tackle. He is far too big to play anywhere else. But Dillard? Dillard is the same height as Brooks and Vaitai, who is currently working at guard. He would have to put on a few extra pounds, but given the lack of long term options inside, I would not be surprised to see Dillard slide inside should Mailata succeed. Dillard has ideal traits for what the Eagles look for in their guards.
Howie Roseman and the Eagles understand the importance of offensive line play. This requires quality starters, quality backups, and quality prospects. While it may not be exciting to have a first round pick who does not project to make an immediate impact, Andre Dillard is a very important piece of the Eagles’ future.