Seahawks NFL Draft Profile: AJ Dillon
Over the course of the next several weeks, the Seahawks and 31 other teams will be evaluating the latest crop of incoming talent in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Up next in our prospect profiles series, the Seahawks endured a horrible situation late in the 2019 season losing Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise to season-ending injuries. To avoid a similar pitfall in 2020, adding Boston College star AJ Dillon to the backfield mix could be a strong play for Seattle.
There isn't a more powerful runner in the 2020 Draft than Dillon. Built like a tank, he stands 6-foot tall and close to 250 pounds, but he carries the weight well for his size. And despite this unusual build for a running back, the former Third-Team All-American boasts freakish athleticism.
At the scouting combine, Dillon blew the roof off at Lucas Oil Stadium with a 4.53 40-yard dash and 41-inch vertical leap. The speed and explosives show up often on tape. Dillon is surprisingly quick for his size, posting a 1.53 second 10-yard split, besting Georgia quickster D'Andre Swift.
Dillon's athleticism and quickness may be surprising, but make no mistake, he's an absolute battering ram and will make his bones in the NFL punishing would-be tacklers and pushing the pile for additional yardage.
Dillon offers above-average field vision and trusts the scheme to hit the holes when they are presented. His vision and ability to accelerate towards the line of scrimmage will serve him well and should help ease some of the agility concerns moving forward.
Aside from an ankle sprain his sophomore year, Dillon was incredibly durable and productive at Boston College, missing just two games while toting the rock 845 times in three seasons. He racked up more than 1,100 yards all three seasons, including eclipsing 1,500 yards twice, and scored 40 touchdowns in his college career.
Despite his durability in college, or perhaps because of it, there is a real concern among scouts that Dillon may not be a long-term answer in the NFL. His physical, bruising style and heavy workload could push him down draft boards as a result.
There are also questions about how much Dillon can create on his own when blocking in front of him breaks down. His straight-line speed and initial burst are plenty good enough, but when he is met in the backfield, he has trouble creating yards thanks to a lack of wiggle.
As a receiving back, Dillon is also a work in progress. Partially as a product of the scheme, he only caught 21 passes in his three seasons at Boston College. Dillon is an average pass protector, but coming from an offense that didn't throw much, he'll need to work on his footwork at the next level.
In today's NFL, teams often value agility and skill in the passing game over a bruising, one-cut and go style runner. Dillon is much closer to the latter than the former, which might push him down draft boards.
Why He Fits In Seattle
There's no question the Seahawks need to draft a running back at some point. With Rashaad Penny's murky timeline to return from his late-season ACL injury and feature back Chris Carson's contract ending after 2020, Travis Homer is the lone healthy back on the current roster with more than two years of club control.
Dillon checks all the athletic boxes Seattle typically places on their running backs including size, speed, explosiveness, and strength. He also has a physical style that compliments both Carson and Penny. With neither Penny nor Carson having played 16 games in a season, Dillon's durability is a big plus in his column.
As for the weaknesses, Seattle actually has a solid complement to Dillon on the roster in Homer. Towards the end of last season, Homer showed real promise as a prototypical third down back and could continue that role this season. Both Carson and Penny are also solid receivers out of the backfield, so the need for Dillon to step right into a passing role for the offense doesn't exist.
Using Dillon as a true third running back in 2020 could help keep some tread on his tires and depending what happens with Carson as he approaches free agency, he could vault into a timeshare with Penny or take over as the starter in 2021.
Having already met with him at the the combine, the Seahawks are interested in Dillon and it is easy to see why. His physical running style and atypical size and athleticism make him a rare athlete that Pete Carroll salivates over. Adding Dillon to their running back room may be too tempting for Seattle to pass up on day two, so don't be surprised if Seattle snags him with the pick 101 at the end of the third round.