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It's been a common refrain this season that the Jets need to overhaul their entire offensive line. However, they don't really have an urgent need to address the tackle positions in the short term, as the team has confidence in Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell. However, both Beachum and Shell are out of contract at the end of the year. While Shell is a candidate to sign a lucrative extension, Beachum will be 30 in June, so the Jets perhaps need to find his heir apparent.
Much of the attention in this draft cycle has been centered around Alabama's Jonah Williams at the tackle position, with Jawaan Taylor from Florida considered the primary alternative to Williams. However, Washington State's Andre Dillard's stock seems to be on the rise.
Could Dillard actually be the ideal fit to be the Jets' long-term solution on the blind side? Let's review what he brings to the table.
Projected Pick: Potential top 15
College (career): 39 straight starts at left tackle, only surrendered one sack in 2018
Combine: 24 bench press reps, 4.96 in the 40-yard dash
Dillard's stock has risen since his outstanding combine performance, which saw him post the top mark for all offensive linemen in the short shuttle and broad jump, along with the best mark for all tackles in the three-cone drill and 40-yard dash.
However, Dillard is not just a workout warrior as much of his rise has been based on more experts getting exposure to his impressive film. Dillard's athleticism shows up on tape, but it's his smooth footwork, balance and ability to mirror against speed rushers off the edge that make him arguably the most polished pass-protector in this class.
In addition, his athletic ability enables him to get out in space to block at the second level or out in front of a screen pass.
Dillard is also regarded as a player with exceptional character, a high football IQ and positive leadership qualities.
Dillard's major weakness is that he lacks experience as a run-blocker. Washington State coach Mike Leach is not regarded as someone who prepares his offensive linemen for the rigors of NFL run blocking sets. In Leach's pass heavy offense, Dillard would rarely be required to fire off the line, so he doesn't have much experience of working at the point of attack. Instead, the Cougars would run a lot of draw plays where Dillard's assignment would be as more of a decoy from a pass blocking set.
It's not impossible for a good pass protector to develop their run blocking abilities over the course of their pro career, though. That was what the Jets were able to achieve with D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
In addition to his lack of run blocking experience, Dillard's pass blocking also needs some technical refinement. This is most evident in the inconsistency of his hand placement. Scouts will love his physical ability as a pass blocker and coaches will feel confident they can mold him into a more polished player but there's obviously no guarantee that he will develop as planned.
All of these points suggest that Dillard's ideal career path might be to sit and learn throughout most of his rookie season, so he would fit best with a team that has a long-term need rather than coveting someone who they need to contribute as a rookie.
While it's not uncommon for an unheralded tackle to rise late and end up getting drafted in the top three, Dillard isn't currently a viable option for the Jets with the third pick. However, if they trade down and acquire some extra picks, he could be ideal for what they need.
The other top tackle prospects are arguably better suited to the right side, but the Jets may already have Shell in their long-term plans at that spot. However, with Dillard capable of playing the left side and the Jets having the luxury of not needing him to start right away, he seems like a better fit.
The Jets may opt to wait until next year to try and find their franchise left tackle of the future. However, tackles that are capable of protecting the blindside don't grow on trees, so there might not be one readily available. They may end up forced to extend Beachum and hope he can hold down the role for a year or two more, so if they do get a chance to find someone to fill that role, perhaps they should take it.
Ultimately, if Dillard goes in the first half of the first round, that's a high pick to use on a developmental project, but he could represent good value later on.