By Charlie Campbell
Summary: When Dillard was a junior during the 2017 season, he created some positive buzz in the scouting community. Some scouts who hit the state that year said they liked Dillard more than another highly heralded tackle from Washington, Trey Adams. Dillard was a good blocker in Mike Leach’s air-raid offense, and was very consistent at protecting his quarterbacks over the past few years.
In the passing-driven NFL, teams are always looking for dependable left tackles who can help keep the quarterback healthy. It can be very difficult to find left tackles with Dillard’s natural size, speed and athleticism, so those qualities make him an intriguing prospect for the NFL.
There are a lot of natural strengths to Dillard. He has very quick feet with surprising athleticism that allows him to get depth in his drop and neutralize speed rushers. He should be an asset to take on the fast edge rushers, as he can get off the corner and prevent them from running the loop around the edge. With his quick feet and ability to bend at the knee, Dillard doesn’t have to reach after rushers and is not a waist bender. He does a nice job of latching onto the defenders and riding them around upfield to keep them from putting heat on the quarterback. There are times when Dillard allows rushers to get speed upfield, but he has demonstrated nice recoverability to push the rushers deep and around the pocket to protect his tackle. For the NFL, Dillard could be very valuable to protect his quarterback against fast edge rushers.
Dillard could have issues in the NFL with powerful edge rushers due to possessing no anchor. Strong bull rushers could give him problems, and that will be the major point of emphasis for his improvement at the pro level.
In the ground game, Dillard is neither a bull who will knock defensive linemen off the ball, nor a force at the point of attack who will ride a defensive end out of his gap. In part because of his college system, you never saw Dillard fire off the ball on tape. He does not have strength to generate movement as a run blocker. However, he is quick to engage defenders and shows some ability to latch onto them to sustain his block with some manipulation of them. For the NFL, Dillard needs to get stronger to become a more balanced blocker. He has no power and no anchor, so he needs development of his body. Additionally, his college system had him playing in wide splits that can’t be run in the NFL.
For the next level, Dillard looks like a future starting left tackle, and he could develop into a Pro Bbowler if he can get stronger. If he adds strength to be able to anchor and get better as a run blocker, he could be a special player. Still, Dillard is adept at blocking on the edge and matching up against speed rushers. Thus, he should be an asset for protecting a franchise quarterback and would be a good fit in a passing offense that throws the ball a lot.
At the Senior Bowl, there was some hype of Dillard being a first-round pick. I spoke with five team sources after hearing that. Four of them said they didn’t see that and thought he would be a good second-day pick. One general manager said they thought Dillard could be a late first-round pick. Given that left tackles play an important position and are hard to find, it is possible that Dillard gets selected on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: David Bakhtiari. Dillard reminds me of Bakhtiari coming out of Colorado in 2013. Bakhtiari entered the league as a finesse pass blocker who used his speed and athleticism to get the better of opponents. Bakhtiari has become a more balanced blocker over his time in the NFL, but he still is a quick and athletic left tackle who is very dependable to match up against speed rushers. Dillard and Bakhtiari (6-4, 310) are identical in size and have similar skill sets. I could see Dillard being a pro comparable to Bakhtiari.
NFL Matches: Arizona, San Francisco, New York Jets, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Philadelphia, Houston, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams
There could be a lot of teams in the market for Dillard in the 2019 NFL Draft because there are a lot of bad offensive lines that need to add more talent at offensive tackle. Most of the teams that took quarterbacks in the first round last year could use a young left tackle to protect their quarterbacks. Arizona has a terrible offensive line and has to improve the blocking for Josh Rosen. Dillard has another option in NFC West as San Francisco also needs to improve its blocking. Dillard and Mike McGlinchey could give the 49ers long-term bookends.
Any of the Jets, the Bills, or the Browns could consider Dillard to be their left tackle to protect their young franchise quarterback. Cleveland has missed the retired Joe Thomas, and Dillard could make sense for the Browns.
In the NFC South, the Buccaneers could let the disappointing Donovan Smith leave in free agency. Dillard would be a quick improvement for Tampa Bay. Carolina needs a left tackle to replace Matt Kalil, and Dillard could be an upgrade for Cam Newton’s edge protection.
Jason Peters is nearing the end of his great career, so Philadelphia could take Dillard to pair with Lane Johnson. In Houston, Bill O’Brien has failed to develop a single quality offensive lineman during his five-year run. The Texans badly need to improve their edge protection for Deshaun Watson.
Minnesota must get more talent to protect Kirk Cousins, so Dillard could be of interest to the Vikings. The Rams could lose Andrew Whitworth to retirement, which would open a big hole at left tackle. Dillard could be a fit for the Rams.
2019 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie’s | Walt’s
2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings
2019 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22
2024 NFL Mock Draft - Feb. 21
Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19
NFL Picks - Feb. 12