If you’re looking for a productive hard nosed runner, then Boston College’s AJ Dillon is going to be the back for you. Dillon was a 4 Star Running back and number one player in the state of Massachusetts and decided to stay in state even with offers from programs like Florida State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Boston College was the perfect fit for Dillon as they wanted to line up in heavy formations and pound the ball between the tackles. After two highly productive years AJ Dillon is NFL Draft eligible and we take a look at what he has to offer the league.
Where AJ Dillon Wins
AJ Dillon couldn’t have found a better fit because his ability to run with power between the tackles is exactly what the Eagles want their offense to be. Dillon runs with good vision as he’s able to find running lanes quickly and even when the primary hole closes he’s able to identify an opening fast. Being a big back (245lbs) who runs behind his pads it’s no surprise that he is tough to bring down, but a big part of that is his not just his size but his balance. If you want to tackle Dillon you’ll need to wrap him up and take him to the ground as he’s able to absorb body shots and has the power to run through arm tackles.
But AJ Dillon is much more than just a true power back. Despite his 245lb frame he does show some quick lateral agility. Whether it is putting a foot down to burst through a running lane or a lateral cut to avoid a defender Dillon is able to make those explosive moves to get where he needs to go. His ability to move horizontal either subtly or more defined allows gets Dillon to the opening that he can see and helps move the chains.
Concerns about AJ Dillon
Dillon is very inexperienced when it comes to catching the ball. Through 23 games in college Dillon has 535 total touches but only 8 of them are catches. Heck he didn’t even have a single catch during his freshman season. Yes Boston College’s offense doesn’t call for the running back to carry the ball much, but if he wants to be a featured back in the NFL he’ll need to be able to be on the field on third downs. In a limited opportunity he did make a few catches outside of his frame, but as teams work him out and at the Scouting Combine this will be a focus.
Long speed is not a prerequisite to being a successful NFL running back as burst and lateral quickness are far more important. That being said NFL defenders are faster than college and while Dillon has the burst to get to the hole, too often he starts to loose juice the further the run. Dillon still has enough speed to get to the perimeter of the defense, but he won’t always have the advantage of playing in a strictly tight formations. This may be a bit nitpicking.
NFL Draft Projection
AJ Dillon is a very productive back who averages over 5 yards per carry and has 24 touchdowns in two years. His 2018 numbers could have been even bigger but he missed time with a high ankle sprain that he dealt with for a majority of the season. But it also shows his toughness and the ability to still produce while hurt. Even though he’s a big back his skill set seems best suited to play in a zone blocking scheme where he can make a quick cut and get downhill fast using his burst and vision.
There are two players that Dillon really reminds me of. His college tape is very similar to Pittsburgh’s James Connor early in his career as both players were big, showed good vision and maybe lacked that speed on college tape. AJ Dillon also reminds me of Jordan Howard in how he played with the Bears. Howard thrived in the Bears zone blocking scheme and even lead the NFL at one point. Like Dillon, Howard didn’t have blazing speed but had enough burst to get chunk runs.
Overall I think Dillon will be a coveted running back but I don’t think this will translate to an early round pick. While talented he seems limited in what he can do and guys like that don’t really go very high. The second round isn’t out of the question but I think Dillon is somebody that will likely go in the third round and it wouldn’t shock me if he even fell to early day three. I’m anxious to see how Dillon plays in 2019 as he is hopefully back to 100%.