Packers Deep Dive — Second Round Draft Pick A.J. Dillon

Here's the newest Packers' battering ram

I kind of figured the Packers would take a running back in this draft. I just didn't think it would happen in the second round. 

But with general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur making a sytematic change to stressing the running game with this recent draft, A.J. Dillon fits the mold. I've read comparisons from the 6-foot, 247-pound Dillon to the 6-3, 247-pound Derrick Henry.

First of all, that isn't fair. Henry is an abolute beast. This past season, he turned the entire league on its ear with his hard-charging style. He averaged over five yards a carry and tallied 16 rushing touchdowns by running people over, not by running around them. He had seven games with at least 20 rushing attempts and even got 32 in the season finale vs. Houston. 

That's where Dillon steps in. LaFleur cut his offensive teeth with the play-action and after watching Henry tear through the league last year, it was only a matter of time before the Packers got their battering ram and started turning Green Bay into San Francisco East. 

Dillon is very intriguing. He is a big guy, but has excellent vision and has shown great staccato cuts at the line of scrimmage. He has a galloping style, which allows him to get caught from behind but he doesn't have an issue making it to the second level. This move tells me that the Packers are wary about giving Aaron Jones 20 or more carries a game — a feat that Jones reached three times during the regular season and once in the postseason. 

Dillon can be that bellcow back that many teams have always coveted, but a lot of teams have given up on in recent years because defending the passing game has gotten much more difficult. He was third in the nation in carries last year by averaging over 24 a game and had five games over 30 carries. He became Boston College's best player by earning school records for rushing yards and touchdowns on teams that went a combined 20-18.

"I'd say I'm for sure an all-purpose back, somebody who can do everything — run the ball, catch and obviously protect the quarterback," said Dillon in a conference call with media on Friday. "I feel like I'm blessed with the size and strength that I do have so it's definitely one of my strengths. So my ability to do that and be able to move people and still have the speed that I do, I feel like I can help the Packers a lot."

And that's true. DIllon's receptions have gone up every year and he was the No. 5 receiver with 13 receptions last year on a team that only threw it 23 times a game. 

And for how big Dillon is, he has plenty of big play ability. He had 40 runs of 10 yards or more and 11 runs of 20 yards or more last year. I've often called Jones the prototypical home run hitter with his speed. But now you also have Dillon who may not get the four bagger, but he will be racking up plenty of extra base hits. 

All of the scouting info from Jersey Al on Dillon is amazing, but I like what people cannot see. Dillon churned out over 1,100 rushing yards as a sophomore while nursing a bad ankle. That is really telling. Everyone in the NFL gets nicked up, but it's how you persevere and move forward and DIllon clearly doesn't let anything stop him. 

"I wanted to be the best running back to play here, and I guess it's up to people's opinions," Dillon told The Boston Globe in December. "But as far as statistically, nobody can say they've done more than me here."

The hardest thing to measure in any athlete is heart. Dillon has that and he's built like a dump truck to boot. 

 

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (20)

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arthurl's picture

April 28, 2020 at 06:46 am

Guess our Packers are taking page out of 49er's playbook. They want to get more physical on offense and run the ball. This guy is big and fast and will be a load. The fact they also drafted two guards and a center later in this draft should tell the fans their philosophy won't be pass, pass, pass.

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hobowilly's picture

May 01, 2020 at 01:52 pm

more balance in my mind actually. Yes, this signals more touting the rock and we shall see the ebs & tides of them running more. It will force defenses to respect the run more and open things up even more IMHO. What's wrong with keeping 3 RB's on the roster? Last, AJ deserves to be paid, he made his mark last year. MM had no clue how to use him or Lewis in his last coaching year.

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stockholder's picture

April 28, 2020 at 07:07 am

No matter how you cut it. This was the #1 choice now. The Fans have spoken. The sky the limit. We now have Larry Csonka, Jim Kick and Mercury Morris. 3 -1000 yard rushers guaranteed. Bob Griese and better QB then Errol Morral. Marv Fleming will emerge. I'm sure Gutey thinks we can break the Dolphins record for most wins. After all doesn't every fan think like Gutey this time of year.

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Razer's picture

April 28, 2020 at 07:25 am

Love the Dolphins reference. If only we had Paul Warfield :o)

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downunder's picture

April 28, 2020 at 07:43 am

Ignoring for a moment where he was taken in the draft, the more I think about Dillon as an addition to our offense, the more excited I get. In packages with both Dillon and AJ on the field, flexing AJ out wide as a slot receiver would be deadly against most LBs in the league. While I am against reducing AJ's touches - I would not be sad to see some of his handoffs become receptions.

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Lphill's picture

April 28, 2020 at 08:08 am

Ravens got high marks for having the best draft because of Patrick Queen and JK Dobbins , two players the Packers could have had , we actually gift wrapped Queen to them their GM must have been in shock when it looked like the Packers made a trade to get Queen and we got a clipboard holder.

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Razer's picture

April 28, 2020 at 08:21 am

...and we got a clipboard holder.

Too funny. I think that Gutekunst fell in love with some guys and overspent to get each one of them. It is great to have an idea of what you want the team to be but what it costs to acquire the players is the business of the game. You only have to look at the Bears to learn the lessons of falling in love and paying too much

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 28, 2020 at 08:54 am

I had Dillon as a late third or fourth-round prospect. However, looking back after the draft, Helaire (32nd), Swift (35th), Taylor (41st), Akers (52nd), and Dobbins (55th) went off the board much more rapidly than I had supposed they would. I had Gibson as a late 3rd or 4th and was hoping he'd be there for the Pack, but he went an astounding (to me) 66th, the second pick in the third round. A bunch of those teams who took RBs took RBs in 2018 or 2019. 8 more went after Dillon in the third and fourth rounds, with only DeeJay Dallas still on the board when the Packers would have selected in the fourth if they had kept a 4th.

Whether Dillon is worth #62 is one debate, but I can see why Gute didn't wait.

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stockholder's picture

April 28, 2020 at 10:42 am

The Lions took Swift. Stafford just got a big target and threat. The Defensive Line is in for a world of hurt again. I would have taken Swift before Hurts.

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stockholder's picture

April 28, 2020 at 10:33 am

Lp You also have to look at Jordyn Brooks going to the Sea hawks. I had him end of 2nd round. He went before Queen. So what were the sea hawks thinking? Baltimore takes the BPA regardless. Thats why their drafts are so successful. So Gutey wasn't the only one who gift wrapped him.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2020 at 10:06 pm

They were thinking what everybody else knew, Queen is a chase guy that may or may not show in the big league.

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dobber's picture

April 28, 2020 at 08:09 am

"it was only a matter of time before the Packers got their battering ram and started turning Green Bay into San Francisco East. "

The Niner backs are all about speed to the edge...outside zone. Breida (now gone), Mostert, Coleman, and Wilson are all fast backs, none are pounders. Dillon might not be a slow back (his Combine 40 is faster than Aaron Jones), but he's more of a power/gap back, and profiles that way. We'll see how that meshes with what the Packers want to do...but I'd like to think they wouldn't have taken him as high if they didn't think he'd fit in.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2020 at 10:07 pm

He can and will run outside zone.

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TheVOR's picture

April 28, 2020 at 09:46 am

Guess we'll see at some point, assuming our nation ever plays football after the globalist media terror attack on the world. I like the idea of this player, I just need to see it translate to the NFL before pronouncing anything. He was a reach draft selection for a reason, and I hope he pans out. He was ranked 10th or > among his draft class coming out, and a 4-5th round draft position ranking. All that said, he's ours now, so lets all hope he can do what we need him to do. I love Running backs that deliver the blows rather than take them. This guy is one of those runners.

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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

April 28, 2020 at 09:50 am

The more I see/read about this kid, the more I like the pick. Can’t wait to see him on the field in Green and Gold running over purple jerseys!

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malta1099's picture

April 28, 2020 at 09:52 am

Love this pick. Actually my favorite of the Packers' draft class (granted, not a lot else to be excited about).
First BJ, now AJ. Guaranteed that BC delivers another winner to the Pack.

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jassylopez's picture

April 28, 2020 at 09:54 am

Thanks for this article!

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Rossonero's picture

April 28, 2020 at 10:35 am

Dillon is intriguing given his incredible athleticism. He tested extremely well at the Combine, and if he can block, he can stay on the field.

I don't think his pass catching ability has been tapped into yet either. If anyone is on the chopping block though, itd be Jamaal Williams.

Packers coaches have described him as "thunder" and Jones as "lightning." With that in mind, Dillon is clearly the new Thunder, and he'll be cheap while Jones would cost more, but having a cheap rookie and expensive veteran is more digestible.

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greengold's picture

April 28, 2020 at 12:55 pm

I FREAKING LOVE THIS!!!!!

This isn't taking a page out of anyone's book. It's Football 101. This goes back to Lombardi and further still. For God's sakes, the Packers have been in need of a power rushing attack since Mike Sherman. I've met Ahman, and know how underutilized he was. Coaches like Mike Holmgren and Bill Belichick get this. Why do you think the Patriots have had the run that they've had, winning rings while keeping Brady upright, healthy?

Running the ball has so many benefits. And now, we're blessed with 3 distinctly different RBs, all of them highly accomplished. Tough for some Packer fans to realize, but Matt LaFleur loves running the football. It makes sense:

1. Takes the heat off of your QB. Opposing pass rushers can't have their ears pinned back looking to crush Rodgers 80% of the offensive plays, as we all have been accustomed to. This is a VERY SMART way to guide AR towards/through the end of his career, by taking some of the load off, limiting his exposure to undue injury, and increasing the effectiveness of his play action passing. Less Risk to AR's health. Heightened effectiveness in passing game.

2. Long, sustained drives by utilizing the run more, chewing up clock, keeps your own defense fresh.

3. Long, sustained drives by utilizing the run more, chewing up clock, keep the opposing O stuck on their sidelines.

4. Run blocking is WAY easier and more enjoyable for OL and wears out the opposing front 7. They can tee off with positive energy, mauling the opposition, as opposed to constantly falling back in pass pro, absorbing energy.

I have to say, this aspect of LaFleur's offense was something I was most excited about when he was hired. I felt that both Sherman and McCarthy left SBs on the table by NOT committing more to running the rock.

This new commitment we've just witnessed through the draft is refreshing. How many pass-pass-pass-punt situations did we witness last year and years past. How many 3rd and short, 4th and short situations have we had where we couldn't get the 1st Down? The goal line score?

That will be a thing of the past with Dillon and Deguara entering the picture. When LaFleur was OC at TEN, Derrick Henry was rushing for something like 3.3 ypc in their first 8 games. TEN then signed a FB who could get the job done, and Henry's ypc increased to 8+... THAT is why Deguara was so important as a scheme fit for LaFleur, and Gutekunst recognized that, realized he might miss on him between 94=175 wait, and just took him to secure him for his HC. I believe both AJ Dillon and Josia Deguara are going to be a part of some very special transitions in GB, ones that will result in success. I do not think for one second Gutekunst lost any focus on the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl. In fact, I think he held firmly to that goal by making these picks. Time will tell, but it looks like more nice work by he and his personnel staff at 1265.

All of that provides BALANCE. We loaded D heavy last offseason and the one previous. It was time to give LaFleur exactly what he wanted. This, without bringing up Jordan Love... who, I feel pretty good about as Aaron's backup for a while, and hopefully his successor for another decade or so. Great work.

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hobowilly's picture

May 01, 2020 at 01:47 pm

Appreciate esp the post by Greengold. Gg wrote, "Sherman and McCarthy left SBs on the table by NOT committing more to running the rock"...MM by his lack of situational awareness lost AR's second chance at a SB; when MM did run (didn't he run like 5 out of 6 times when GB had the ball in their 2nd & 3rd last offensive series in that game?) he announced it by putting in heavy packages. All he needed to do was make 1 first down, game over! Sometimes in critical downs you need to give some sort of surprise look, esp when games are on the line...MM had very little of that-he was stubborn in his ways, should have yielded to AR but we'll never know the details. Too many blame Bostick outright.

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