The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select Andre Dillard with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to see how the so-called “experts” have graded the selection. Draft grades are hardly the ultimate determination of whether a pick is actually good or not, but it’s still interesting to see what non-Eagles fans are saying about the selection.
But before we do that, let’s look at how Eagles fans reacted to the pick here at Bleeding Green Nation. With just under 6,000 votes cast, 88% of Eagles fans gave the Dillard selection either an “A” or “B” grade.
This looks about right to me. I was thinking the Eagles deserve a “B+” or “A-” grade for drafting Dillard. I’ll stick with “B+” as my grade.
Some things I do like about the Dillard pick:
- The Eagles invested in a long-term replacement for Jason Peters, who turned 37 in January and is likely playing his last season.
- The Eagles aren’t merely counting on Halapoulivaati Vaitai or Jordan Mailata to be their Peters replacement. Big V is a free agent after this year and he could be traded this offseason. He’s proven to be a capable swing tackle but he’s not an ideal long-term starter. Mailata’s potential is incredibly intriguing but the Eagles would be foolish to merely count on a dude who didn’t play football until last summer to replace JP any time soon.
- The Eagles prioritized protecting Carson Wentz. Dillard is one of the best pass protecting linemen in the draft. It’s smart to do what it takes to help No. 11 stay healthy.
- Dillard doesn’t have to start right away. The Eagles can ease him into the lineup so they’re not counting on a rookie to immediately play at left tackle. Being around both Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and Peters should do wonders for Dillard’s development.
- The Eagles won Super Bowl LII in part due to how much they invested in the trenches. It’s smart to continue to invest in those areas. Drafting an offensive lineman can be like eating your vegetables: it’s not the most exciting part of your meal but it’s ultimately good for your health.
- The Eagles still have two Round 2 picks despite trading up.
Some things I don’t like about the Dillard pick:
- The Eagles only have four more selections in the 2019 NFL Draft after giving up fourth and sixth round selections to move up from No. 25 to No. 22. It’s entirely possible they’ll trade down and/or trade players to get more picks. Until then, there’s a cap on what there is to look forward to.
- Dillard turns 24 in October. That’s on the older side for a rookie. For context, 2017 draft picks Derek Barnett and Sidney Jones are still only 22 years old.
- Dillard needs to develop as a run blocker. (Then again, the Eagles are always going to pass a lot more than they run.)
- Dillard has a finesse style. Some view him as “soft.”
- Doesn’t necessarily help the team win games in 2019, although he could be an important backup if Vaitai is traded and Peters continues to deal with injury issues.
- Lack of versatility. Admittedly doesn’t have much experience outside of left tackle.
Now for more hot takes and draft grades from “experts” around the web.
It’s imperative that Carson Wentz stays healthy. When Jason Peters retires, Dillard should be able to step in immediately and keep Wentz upright. The Eagles had to make a trade to make this pick happen. But is it a good idea to trade extra picks to take a backup? That’s the risk built in with trading up and taking a player who might not be on the field until 2020.
He’s a good pass protector, but he didn’t have to put his hand in the ground. Eventually he’ll have to, but can he? He better be a guy you can plug in there and be a 10-year starter and make some All-Pro teams. Taylor would have been my pick in this spot.
The book on Dillard is he’s a raw talent whom offensive line coaches would love to get their hands on. Philadelphia’s Jeff Stoutland won the draw. And Stoutland will have time; aging future Hall of Famer Jason Peters is expected back on the left side for 2019 and Lane Johnson remains a Pro Bowl—if not All-Pro-caliber—specimen on the right side. Dillard, who should be the future left tackle, can learn from the bench as a rookie. The focus will be on his run-blocking, as Dillard’s Washington State Cougars did not employ many NFL-style run concepts, while the Eagles have one of football’s most expansive rushing schemes.
That is not a Gettlemanian response, discounting the notion of things like a prospect’s age factoring into the evaluation. It’s reasonable to trust that Dillard’s age was baked into the Eagles’ evaluation. And if Dillard was really a top 10 player on the team’s board, moving up three spots to secure that level of talent at a premium position — which is also perhaps the franchise’s most dire long-term need — makes a lot of sense. Hollywood Brown would have been more exciting, but the Dillard selection will also be judged against the tackles who could have been available had the Eagles stayed at No. 25 — Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford, who both surprisingly fell out of the first round entirely. Knowing Roseman, it would be a surprise if the Eagles finish the weekend with just five picks. The guess here is they’ll move down from one or both of their current second-round picks. Vaitai could also be traded for a mid- or late-round pick. The Dillard pick is the residue of good offseason design, which allowed the team to enter the draft without any pressing needs. Now, they have the luxury of adding a player who should be a long-term centerpiece without needing him to start right away. And when Dillard retires in 15 years, the Eagles will still have Jordan Mailata as their left tackle of the future.
Mike Leach-coached offensive tackles give me the heebie-jeebies to project because they are always lined up in a two-point stance and quick-setting to pass protect for about 0.2 microseconds before the quarterback gets rid of the ball. But Dillard put much more on tape when protecting Gardner Minshew than the ability to play within a quarterback-and-lineman-friendly system. He’s quick to pick up blitzers and slides smoothly from one defender to another. At the second level, he can pull into a hole and thump a defender or hustle out to deliver a block. And he sustains blocks pretty well when he has to. Toss in some exemplary combine numbers—a 4.4-second 20-yard shuttle and 7.44-second three-cone result confirm Dillard’s lateral agility—and you get a worthy first-rounder and likely future starter at left tackle. “Future” starter is the key word for the Eagles, who will soon have to replace Jason Peters. Yes, that’s been the case since they drafted Lane Johnson in 2013. But seriously: The time has come to find a true heir apparent at left tackle. Dillard is a worthy choice.
The Eagles move up to grab their long-term Jason Peters successor. Philly gave up 2019 fourth- and sixth-rounders to jump up three spots and land the best pure pass-protecting tackle in this class. Dillard has light feet and elite athleticism, and he brings consistency to the Eagles after starting 39 straight games for WSU. He’ll need to develop as a run blocker at the next level after playing in Mike Leach’s pass-heavy Air Raid offense, but projects as a future stalwart protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside. I’m never a big fan of trading up to grab a non-quarterback, but general manager Howie Roseman got my 17th-ranked player with the no. 22 pick and only had to give up a pair of day three selections. Not bad.
Jason Peters has had a great NFL career, but he’s 37 years old and his contract is due to expire after next season. Dillard and Lane Johnson will form a great tandem whenever Peters moves on, and giving up a late fourth- and sixth-rounder to trade up for Dillard was more than acceptable to get an elite pass protector.
Howie Roseman does it again! The Eagles needed a franchise left tackle to replace Jason Peters, and they got one … at pick 22. That never happens. Dillard is the best pass protector in the class. He’s not overly powerful, but he doesn’t let people get by him. Washington State threw the ball a ton — and QB Gardner Minshew held the ball for an eternity — and Dillard gave up only one sack in all of 2018.