Size Matters: AJ Dillon

In preparation for FakePigskin’s 2020 Senior Bowl / NFL draft coverage, I will take a look at prospects whom are projected to have a major role at the next level.

Each prospect will be broken down by characteristics used when evaluating players and how they should transition at the next level.

Name: AJ Dillon

Position: Running Back

School: Boston College

Height: 6’ 0”

Weight: 250 lbs

Overview

AJ Dillon is a massive human.  That’s going to be the first thing that jumps at you.  He looks like a monster running the ball up the gut in his college tape.  He is a tall task for defenders to bring down when he gets to the second level.  With a career 5.2 average yards per carry, how often can he get there?  He also has a lot of miles on him, having logged 845 carries for 4382 yards.  Is his size enough to land Dillon a starting gig in the NFL?

Running Back:

-Vision/Instincts:   Will approach the line of scrimmage slowly, while waiting for a hole to open and decisive when he chooses a lane to run through.  Dillon seems to use good judgement when accessing his point of attack.  I wonder if he overthinks sometimes, which could explain some of his fumbles, being focused on the play developing instead of securing the ball.

-Elusiveness: Calling a 250 pound running back elusive is a good way to lose your evaluation credibility.  I will say that for his size, he is as agile as you can hope for.  Changes directions reasonably well.  It does look like he has a decent spin move.  Lateral agility, jump cuts, hurdling, will not be strengths for him in the NFL.  These are not his primary tools though. 

-Outside running: Dillon does a decent job getting the edge in college, which is a bit of a shock for his size.  This part of his skill set will not translate to the NFL though.  Due to his larger frame, cuts take him longer than your average NFL back and allow defenders to close.  He should be viewed as primarily a between the tackles runner.

-Inside running/Power: This is Dillon’s wheelhouse.  He is fast enough to beat linemen and some slower LBs.  He can lower his head and run through defenders like few others in this class.  Thick lower body and above average balance and center of gravity help keep him upright, even through heavy traffic.  His legs churn and drive defenders back and he’s more likely to fall forward with momentum than backwards.  He has natural ability to get low and plow through defenders at will.  He will not go down to arm tackles.  I would caution that, any speed advantage he gets at the college level goes away in the NFL.  Some of the arm tackles he broke through in college, turn into multiple defenders closing in on him at the next level.  I worry that defenders will be able to key on him depending on landing spot and equalizing the advantage he has to this aspect of his game.

-Home Run Ability: Very little.  He ran a 4.59 40 while being recruited by Boston College.  He was 20 pounds lighter then.  If he can run below a 4.6 40 at the combine, that would be huge for him.  

-Ball Security: This is an issue for Dillon.  He has eight fumbles in his college career.  The guys at the next level will eat him alive if he doesn’t protect the ball.  As I mentioned before, I wonder if some of these are concentration fumbles, which I’m not sure are correctable.  

-Blocking/Blitz Pick-up: Dillon is an absolute beast in pass protection.  One of the biggest obstacles for rookie RBs earning time on the field is earning trust in pass protection and blitz pick ups.  That is not a concern for AJ.  With his size and strength, he has the natural tools to excel against NFL rushers.  Gets low on blockers and due to the violent nature of his natural play style, he never shies away from contact.

-Hands: Below average hands.  Only has 21 receptions in his college career.  By comparison, Leonard Fournette, who was said to have poor hands coming out of college, had 41 receptions.  Even easy passes look challenging on occasion and this will not be part of his pro game.  This category was lowest grade I gave him out of all areas I look at.  

– Final Thoughts:  Although his size makes him intriguing, I don’t think Dillon is going to be an above average RB at the next level.  His underwhelming speed, absence of pass catching ability, and tendency to fumble limit his positive traits.  His role in the NFL will more than likely be in a fullback type role, or at best a 1st and 2nd down, between the tackles grinder with LeGarrette Blount type abilities who coincidentally is also 6’ 0” 250lbs.  I believe Dillon’s fumble issues put his ceiling lower than Blounts.  If you take out Blount’s outlier 18 TD season in 2016, what’s left over might be the absolute best that Dillon is capable of.  That is a grinder who is in the neighborhood of 500 – 700 yards and 4-6 TDs a season.  He could be a decent role player if he figures out how to hang onto the ball..

Projected Draft Round: 4-6

Question Mark:  Will Dillon cut weight in an NFL training program?  Could that maximize his talent and elevate him to sleeper status?

Comp: LeGarrette Blount

Team Fit: Chargers, Seahawks, Texans 

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