The Eagles traded up in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night to select Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard with the No. 22 overall pick, landing a player they considered the best offensive tackle in the draft and one of the top 10 players on their board.
Although the Eagles don’t have a short-term need at left tackle, Dillard projects as Jason Peters’ eventual replacement and fits the team’s emphasis on building along the lines.
The plan when the draft started was not necessarily to land Dillard – the Eagles thought he would be off the board well before they were scheduled to pick at No. 25. But when there was a run on defensive linemen and quarterbacks, the offensive linemen started to drop and the Eagles wanted to position themselves to land Dillard.
“That wasn’t what we anticipated,” team executive Howie Roseman. “Our evaluation was this was the best tackle in the draft. Usually, those guys go in the top 10. That’s how we had it rated. When he started to fall, we saw an opportunity to get a top-10 player. … When you have a top-10 player at an important position, it doesn’t matter about the depth on the team. We’re trying to load up on the lines.”
Dillard has what the Eagles like at the position. The 23-year-old Woodinville, Wash., native is 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds with 33 ½-inch arms. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.96 seconds, which is evidence of the athleticism that the Eagles’ brass raved about when discussing him.
He had the best broad jump of any offensive lineman at the combine (118 inches) and the fastest 20-yard shuttle. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland called him “unusual” in draft room conversations and Roseman said Dillard is “not a normal athlete” at the position.
Dillard’s athleticism was apparent when he started the last three seasons at left tackle for Washington State, where he earned first-team all-Pac 12 honors last year and was a third-team all-American.
He started 39 games for the pass-happy Cougars and allowed just one sack on 677 pass attempts last year. He excelled at the Senior Bowl, where the Eagles spent considerable time evaluating him. But he was on their radar well before, with senior director of college scouting Anthony Patch keeping tabs on Dillard because he lives nearby in the Pacific Northwest.
Because Washington State seldom ran the ball, Dillard might need to grow as a run blocker. Roseman touted Dillard’s upside and the Eagles will have Dillard learn from Stoutland and Peters. There’s no rush to play Dillard, considering Peters is back for another season.
They also have Halapoulivaati Vaitai as a swing tackle and have developed Jordan Mailata. But there’s no doubt left tackle was a long-term need, and Dillard looks like the player who can take over for Peters.
“This guy hasn’t come close to hitting his ceiling,” Roseman said.
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The Eagles jumped up from the No. 25 pick to move ahead of the Houston Texans, who were believed to be in the market for an offensive lineman. They dealt No. 25, a fourth-round pick (No. 127 overall), and a sixth-round pick (No. 197 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens. The Eagles initially wanted to get in front of the Ravens, but they ended up making the deal with them. It ensured a chance at a player they didn’t expect to land when the draft started.
“We thought if we didn’t get to Baltimore’s spot, there was a chance we’d lose the player,” Roseman said. “And I think all of us really wanted to make sure we got the player.”