Washington State Cougars football has always seemed to be a magnet for people with a gambler’s mentality. The location, resources and competitive environment have emphasized the need for finding people willing to bet on themselves. This often gets classified as trying to find “diamonds in the rough,” either on the coaching side or with the players the Cougars recruit.
While the aforementioned term about diamonds can trigger an eye roll from many readers on this site, the story of Andre Dillard is an all-timer in terms of someone betting on themselves and a school returning that sentiment.
Five years ago, who could have imagined — other than Dillard and the WSU coaching staff — that a 240-pound high school senior with no other Power 5 offers would end up getting invited to Nashville for the NFL Draft?
When he committed and then was inserted into the starting line up as a freshman, his basketball pedigree was used to try and give some context to the WSU faithful as to what the coaching staff saw that the rest of the Pac-12 didn’t. “Basketball player” is often a code word for “athletic, but undersized for a lineman.” Dillard erased any undersized concerns when he weighted in at 315 pounds, but “former basketball player” would significantly undersell the elite level of athleticism Dillard showed at the NFL combine.
He had the second best broad jump of any tackle since 2013, the second best shuttle time of any tackle since 2013 and beat the 1st round avg time in the 3 cone by just over a tenth of a second. He graded out at or well above the 1st round average in every event but the bench press, where he matched the performance of UCLA’s Kolton Miller, who was picked 15th overall last year, and that of Jake Matthews, who was selected 6th overall by Atlanta in 2014.
The below chart highlights where Dillard ended up in each event at the combine compared to every offensive tackle who attended the combine since 2013 (however, the data goes back to 2000 if you want to take a deeper look — just change the filters). Each logo is an individual player, the large colored circles are the average performance in each event for players who were drafted in the 1st, 2-3rd, 4th-6th and 7th/UDFA rounds.
If you’re on mobile tilt your phone horizontal, and if you’re on Google AMP or Apple News, click here to open the chart in a new tab.
What’s pretty insane is looking at the pedigree of the players around Dillard’s broad jump. If you lasso select around a player you get a pop up with a hyperlink that takes you to a list comparing that cohort of player’s entire combine performance. Deep blue is a top performance for the group, deep orange is a bottom tier performance for the selection. The average broad jump at the combine for a 1st round pick since 2013 is 109 inches (just over 9 feet), Dillard beat that by 9 inches. The below chart looks at every tackle who has jumped at least 115 inches in the broad jump since 2013. Dillard shows up with names like Lane Johnson (drafted 4th overall), Eric Fisher (drafted 1st overall), and Taylor Lewan (drafted 11th overall). The lowest pick of this cohort is Jason Spriggs, drafted by the Packers in the 2nd round in 2016.
If you’re on mobile tilt your phone horizontal, if you’re on Google AMP or Apple News click here to open the chart in a new tab.
Speaking of the Packers, a name that doesn’t show up in the above chart, but has me very excited for Dillard’s NFL prospects is last year’s 1st team All Pro left tackle, David Bakhtiari. Coming out of high school, Bakhtiari was 266 pounds and only a 2-star prospect. He left Colorado after his junior year and became the first Green Bay Packers rookie to start all 16 games at left tackle and has since gone on to be 2nd team All Pro in 2016 and 2017 before the above-mentioned 1st team performance last season.
I bring up Bakhtiari because Dillard’s detractors would say he isn’t tall enough to play left tackle in today’s NFL, but Bakhtiari measured in at the combine an inch shorter than Dillard and 16 pounds lighter. Just because Bakhtiari has had a great NFL career does not mean Dillard will too, but hopefully Bakhtiari’s high level play at not prototypical height acts as another data point in Draft War Rooms to justify spending an early first round pick on Dillard.
Peter King’s last mock draft had the Houston Texans trading up to select Andre at 17 and he is rumored to be the top tackle on the board for several teams picking well before Houston. Whoever picks him is not only getting a great story, but an insanely athletic lineman who should continue to thrive in the ever increasingly pass happy NFL. Fly Falcons Fly, Go Cougs, and Go Andre. Here’s to an early call on Thursday.