Under the guidance of coach Mike Solari, the Seattle Seahawks offensive line took a major step forward in 2018, helping pave the way for the team to lead the NFL in rushing and finish in the top 20 for pass protection efficiency for the first time since 2012.
But as indicated by quarterback Russell Wilson being sacked a career-high 51 times last season, plenty of improvement still needs to come to fruition before the Seahawks can contend for championships. With Germain Ifedi heading into the final year of his rookie contract and Duane Brown set to turn 34 years old in August, could Seattle opt to use its first selection in April’s draft on Washington State standout Andre Dillard as a long-term starter at one of the tackle spots?
Possessing quality size for an NFL tackle prospect (6-foot-5, 310 pounds), Dillard can hold his own against all types of rushers when his hand placement is on point and he’s able to maximize his wingspan. Once he’s locked on and has established a quality strike point on his defender, he mirrors rushers effectively and moves his feet well to offset counter moves.
A smooth mover for his size, Dillard seems most comfortable when he’s able to slide laterally working against speed rushes. While he’s prone to give up the corner from time to time due to inconsistent hand usage on initial blocks, he does utilize his hands effectively as clubs to knock defenders’ arms away from his frame during engagement.
As revealed consistently on his college film, Dillard plays with a high football IQ and rarely gets fooled on stunts. When teams tried to run twist stunts against the Cougars, he generally did a superb job exchanging defenders with the guard and maintaining his blocks. He also kept his head on a swivel and picked up blitzes adeptly most of the time.
Though Dillard isn’t easy to evaluate coming from an Air Raid scheme built primarily around passing the football, he showed flashes of being a competent second-level blocker on screens and zone runs. He displays decent burst out of his stance in the run game and plays with adequate pad level in the trenches.
If there’s one glaring weakness in Dillard’s pass protection skills, it’s his vulnerability to bull rushes. On his initial punch, he has a tendency to have his hands strike wide outside the defender’s frame without much power, which leaves him susceptible to being driven back onto his heels by stronger, more technically-sound rushers. He often struggles to recover and has a difficult time setting an anchor in these situations as the pocket collapses.
Hand placement isn’t a problem restricted simply to pass protection for Dillard, who has a difficult time delivering accurate, powerful initial strikes in the run game as well. Consequently, he struggles mightily at times to win at the point of attack, can be overpowered by defenders at the line of scrimmage, and often falls off of his blocks due to technique and strength issues.
Dillard plays with a motor and effort won’t be a concern for whoever draft him in April, but he’s never going to be a mauler and will have to transform into a technician to be consistently successful as a run blocker at the next level. Right now, he doesn’t fit the bill and his fundamentals will need to be shored up through quality coaching.
Where He Fits in Seattle
Even with their apparent improvements up front in 2018, the Seahawks don’t necessarily have a young offensive line and there’s still a great deal of progress that needs to be made to protect Wilson. With free agency looming for Ifedi after next season, it’s not too early for the organization to consider drafting his potential successor.
While Dillard could play right away for teams with pass-happy schemes similar to the one he played in at Washington State, however, he’d need significant time working on fundamentals with Solari and hitting the weight room before Seattle could turn him loose in its more traditional, run-heavy offense. On the bright side, the Seahawks wouldn’t need him to play right away, which would afford the coaching staff time to get him up to speed.
Many projections have Dillard potentially going as early as the mid-to-late first round, which seems a bit high for Seattle to reach on a player who will be required to develop for at least one season before he’s ready. But if the Seahawks trade back into the second round and he’s still available, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the organization stay local and fill an eventual need at one of the tackle spots.