AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
(percentile rank among all RBs at Combine since 1999, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds (61st percentile)
Vertical: 41 inches (96th)
Broad: 131 inches (97th)
3-cone: 7.19 seconds (23rd)
20-yard shuttle: n/a
Dillon rushed for just 600 yards as a high school senior … but that’s because a broken leg limited him to only 4 games. So Dillon merely averaged 150 yards and racked up 12 TDs in that limited action. Then he chose BC -- as a 3-star recruit -- over an offer from Michigan (among others).
Dillon jumped right into the action as a true freshman, ranking 3rd in FBS in rushing attempts (300) and 7th in yards (1,589). Three of the 4 RBs ahead of him on that list (plus 2 QBs) now reside on NFL rosters, and the other (Jonathan Taylor) soon will. Dillon earned ACC rookie of the year, 1st-team all-conference and freshman All-America honors.
He followed that with another 1st-team All-ACC nod in 2018 and cut his fumbles from 4 to 1. Dillon lost a couple of games while working through nagging injuries. He still handled 42% of the team’s rushing attempts but averaged just 3.4 yards per rush over the season’s final 4 contests.
Dillon ramped it back up for 2019, earning the best Pro Football Focus grade of his career (an elite 91.3). He again ranked 3rd in FBS in carries and 6th in yards. Dillon also led the nation in missed tackles forced, according to PFF. For his 3-year Boston College career, Dillon’s 198 broken tackles trailed only Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss nationally.
He topped 150 rushing yards in 7 of 12 games in his final campaign, doubling his career total for such performances.
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: Iowa 2017, Clemson 2017, Miami 2018, Wake Forest 2018, Syracuse 2019, Clemson 2019
If you’re old enough to have watched football in the 1980s or early 1990s (or the 2019 Titans), then you’ve seen RBs like AJ Dillon. Most of them didn’t match his size-speed combo, but you’ve seen his style.
His entire 2019 Syracuse tape -- 35 carries, 242 yards, 3 TDs -- could have been a Christian Okoye game. If you’re my age or older, then you probably look back fondly on the former Chief. But you might not remember that the “Nigerian Nightmare” only topped 805 rushing yards in a season twice and averaged a mere 3.9 yards per carry for his career. And that was in a more favorable time for hulking backs.
Dillon would have been a popular back among coaches in those days. His combo of weight (250 pounds) and speed (4.53-second 40) produce a 97th-percentile speed score. That trails only Jonathan Taylor in this year’s class and beats everyone from last year’s RB group.
Aside from being big, Dillon has the speed to get the edge on outside running plays.
And, of course, there’s the strength you’d expect from a 250-pound runner
Dillon also displays more agility at times than you’d expect to see from a big back. He can be fairly light on his feet at times.
But he certainly doesn’t win with agility. Dillon runs like the sluggish 3-cone time he posted at the Combine. He’s slow to adjust when trying to redirect away from interior traffic.
And he’s not going to dance around any defenders in the NFL. Dillon will often have no option but to lean into what’s there.
I’d talk about his lack of receiving here, but I don’t have much to say. Among the 6 games I watched from 3 seasons, I only saw 3 total targets -- just 1 of which was catchable. He did catch it, at least.
The total lack of receiving is the biggest hurdle here. Dillon’s comps among draftniks have included Brandon Jacobs (PFF) and Eric Shelton. His PlayerProfiler comp is a more intriguing Steven Jackson, but that’s based mostly on the size and strong athletic testing. Jackson caught 66 passes in college, including 44 in his final (junior) season. Dillon caught 21 in 3 years as Boston College’s workhorse.
Dillon’s Mockdraftable profile presents similar results, listing Ricky Williams and Nick Chubb as his top comparables based on size and testing. His top comp there (Williams) presents only a 77.2% match. It’s rare on there for a player to not have at least 1 match of 85% or higher, and guys regularly find a 90+% match.
That points to the rareness of the package Dillon brings. But today’s NFL just doesn’t highly value what he does well. Look at Williams, again, who averaged 2.3 receptions per game for his career; 3.5 over his 3 seasons with the Saints.
Dillon will be someone’s power back, but that will only be attractive if he lands in a strong offense with lots of scoring chances and no other big RB.It’s also not hard to envision Dillon going the way of BC predecessor Andre Williams. He delivered an 84th-percentile speed score at 230 pounds coming off a 2,000-yard final season for the Eagles. Then he landed with the Giants in Round 4, totaled 332 carries and 19 receptions over 4 seasons (most of that in his rookie campaign) and spent this spring as an XFL reserve.