Hello Packer Nation!
I am sure many of you scratched their respective heads when the Packers drafted a running back in the 2nd Round. Running back was a position that had quality with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. So why would they draft AJ Dillon? Let's look at it with an open mind.
First, Matt LaFleur has been a huge proponent of developing a rushing attack that can set up the pass. This is a reverse to the Mike McCarthy era and it will be something fans will need to get used to. When LaFleur was Offensive Coordinator in Tennessee, he had Derrick Henry. LaFleur fell in love with Henry and it was a match made in heaven when AJ Dillon was sitting there at #62. While Dillon isn't as tall as Henry at 6'0", he is a tank at 250lbs and is decently quick for a man his size. He is always leaning forward and gets yards after contact. He finishes runs well and has premier ability in short yardage situations.
He does a good job setting up blocks and being patient. He doesn't get excited and hit the back of his lineman because he plays the game too fast. This is an overlooked aspect and why he is prepared to contribute as a rookie. He has good vision to anticipate holes and is a one cut back, which is a requirement in a "zone run scheme" the Packers employ. A "one cut" back means he hits the hole when the blocks develop and has no hesitation. Once he gets in the secondary he is a load to bring down. His pre-snap reads are good and post snap reads are above average. He sets up linebackers well by not giving away his road map.
He is a straight north and south guy in the NFL. Dillon tends to want to spin away and manipulate defenders instead of running through them from all the tape I watched. Misdirection runs were lethal when he was matched up against a corner or safety. He is meant to run between the tackles. He works better running inside and bouncing out. He played his sophomore season on a tender ankle and his production tailed off, but overall was healthy for most of his college career. He did not catch the ball much but the few times he did, he didn't look unorthodox doing it. His patience could be utilized on screen plays, which were his most productive catches in college.
At Boston College, he led all draft eligible running backs who ran against "stacked boxes" meaning he ran the majority of plays against more than 6-7 guys at the line of scrimmage. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and had 40 total TD's. Opposing teams knew Dillon was THE offense. He did touch the ball a ton in his three seasons at Boston College with 866 total touches and concerns regarding his durability were detrimental for many teams. It was the same concern teams had about Ron Dayne coming out of Wisconsin and Dayne was nothing more than a complimentary back in his NFL career. The ironic thing is another back who came out with Dillon in this years draft, former Badger Jonathan Taylor, touched the ball 968 total times and scouts never questioned the amount of touches he received at Wisconsin. All Wisconsin backs have had a lot of volume coming into the NFL and besides Dayne it hasn't been an obvious concern.
It is hard to predict what the future holds, but I believe Dillon can be a good NFL back. If he is the #1 guy, he can be a 1,000 yard back. But, his rookie campaign will be back up work behind Aaron Jones and in short yardage situations. People will see glimpses of Ahman Green in Dillon and Dillon came to the right offense to maximize his talents. Teaming him with Jones will provide a great "thunder and lightning" duo. In the NFL, he will have more space to run against compared to college. I am not critical of this 2nd round pick because they did need another back to prepare for the future (Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are in the last year of their rookie contracts) and if the Packers were looking for a guy to be the traditional "bell-cow" back Dillon has proven he can be that guy! Aaron Jones will command a healthy new contract and it might be too much for the Packers to pull the plug.
Go Pack Go!