GREEN BAY - With the 62nd overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers drafted Boston College running back AJ Dillon. He is the second offensive skill player the Packers have drafted in as many picks, joining first-round quarterback Jordan Love.
Even if the Packers had yet to address arguably their biggest need, a receiver, it should not be surprising to see general manager Brian Gutekunst take a running back this high. The Packers, who already have Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in their backfield, lost the NFC championship game to a San Francisco 49ers team that rode their three-tailback attack of Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman. Packers coach Matt LaFleur’s system is similar to that of 49ers coach and mentor Kyle Shanahan, and at the NFL scouting combine, LaFleur made clear he wanted to add depth to his backfield. “We’re going to need not only those two guys,” LaFleur said of Jones and Williams, “but I do think we’re going to need a third guy to kind of put into that mix moving forward.” The Packers drafted Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams in the sixth round last year, but he was unable to get consistent playing time as a rookie. Dillon, a huge and explosive runner, comes with a different pedigree.
Weight: 247 pounds
40 time: 4.53 seconds
Career rushing yards
- Rushed for 1,685 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.
- Set Boston College’s career rushing record in only three seasons.
- Finished 220 yards shy of setting the ACC’s career rushing record.
- Third-team All-American as a junior.
- First-team All-ACC as a sophomore and junior.
- ACC rookie of the year as a freshman.
Dillon has surprising speed and burst for his size, but he will be the thunder to Jones’ lightning in the Packers run game. Quicker than Jamaal Williams, Dillon should get enough carries to take the load off Jones in the 2020 season. In the long term, Dillon could give the Packers an insurance policy if they are unable to re-sign Jones within the next year. Jones will enter the final year of his contract in 2020 coming off a breakout season last fall.
The scout said
In a conference call, Packers scout Mike Owen spoke about the second-round pick:
On A.J. Dillon’s 845 college carries
“Freshman year to his junior year, there hasn’t really been a dip. He’s just been steady, consistent, I don’t see any breakdown or anything in his body. The way his structure is, he’s built to last. He’s gonna carry the load if he can. Our offense, we got a couple other good running backs, so he might not need to carry the load there, too. He’s got the ability to do both.”
On A.J. Dillon’s receiving ability
“What’s surprising is you might not see it much during the game, but you go to practice, you see him running routes, you see him catching the football. He’s got real good hands. He went to the combine and showed the same thing. I think his receiving game is actually further along than you might believe, and I think that’s just an added element to his game. You see his running ability throughout the game during the year, but he does have that pass-catching ability. So I feel that’s just an added element to his game.”
On how Dillon fits in a backfield with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams
“Whatever he plays, that’s up to coach LaFleur and his offensive staff, but I think he’ll be a great complement to Aaron Jones and Jamaal. I think that’s a three-headed beast that can come in, take this running game to the next level. You’ve got a nice mixture of running styles. I would say Aaron Jones is more like lightning, you’ve got the thunder right here with AJ Dillon and Jamaal Williams.”
AJ Dillon met the local media via conference call Friday night. Here are some highlights.
On how he would describe his game
“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. 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.”
On whether his 845 carries in three seasons were why he left college early
“I would say this, and I would echo this to everybody across the Packers Nation: I’m good to go, healthy as can be. I had a lot of carries but that just shows I can handle the workload, I can be the workhorse. Everybody can know that the ball’s coming to me and I can still churn out yards. I went to the combine, went through all the medical and I didn’t get sent back for any extra X-rays or scans. I went there, performed and I’m still healthy, which is a blessing, and I’m ready to just get to work.”
On which NFL running backs he studies and tries to emulate
“I never try to compare myself to anybody. But just in the thought process of I’ve always been a student of the game. I try to take bits and pieces from peoples’ games. A recent running back is Derrick Henry for sure. The comparables by the numbers definitely jump out. Guys like him and Leonard Fournette who are bigger backs, can do it all. They can run, they can block, they can catch, and they do it with aggression. I’m always looking to continue to grow my game. I look at guys like Christian McCaffrey. That might not necessarily be my style of play, but I like to see what I can take from him to make my game better.”
On being a big, power runner in cold-weather Wisconsin
“So I mean as far as the weather, you know I grew up in Connecticut. I played my high school ball in Massachusetts and I played obviously at Boston College for three years, so I’m used to the cold. I’m used to the rough, tough people that we’ve got up in this area. I’m used to it; I can ride it out in the cold weather, the rain, the sleet, the hail. It’s kind of like home in a way.”
Louis Riddick: “You have a guy who was absolutely a between-the-tackles hammer. That’s where he lives. This is a guy who was a power, counter, inside-zone type of runner who is going to punish people at the point of attack. You’re going to bounce off of that big, strong, lower body, and he’s going to get tons of yards after initial contact. He’s a guy who runs with tremendous competitiveness, he’s got good speed. He will make it challenging for second-level defenders to run down. He’s a workhorse. He’s the kind of guy who really does fit with what the Packers are looking for as far as a first- and second-down back is concerned, and change of pace.
Mel Kiper Jr.: “You think about a 250 pounder with a 41-inch vertical. He needs a few more reps catching the football, but he had 845 carries during his career at Boston College. That’s second only of the top-rated running backs to Jonathan Taylor. He has a lot of tread on those tires, but he held up pretty well. Decent vision, good burst through that hole. Good body lean. Effective stiff arm. I’ll tell you, AJ Dillon is a complementary big back with a lot of athleticism and a lot of production. AJ Dillon is going to be tough to deal with on that second level.”