No, Andre Dillard wasn’t a sexy choice for the Eagles. He didn’t possess the name recognition of a Josh Jacobs, Marquise Brown or Montez Sweat, who were taken in the ensuing picks. Ideally, he’ll never even play a down in 2019.
But it’s not every year the best left tackle prospect in the draft, arguably — a potential top-10 talent, certainly — is still on the board at No. 22. There’s no denying it’s a position the Eagles needed to address, either.
Everybody knows Jason Peters is 37, on the final year of his contract and has been injured each of the last two seasons. Sad as the day will be when his time with the Eagles comes to an end, it’s inevitable and approaching fast.
Now the Eagles can pencil Dillard into that spot as soon as 2020. Just like that, they have a succession plan at one of the most important and difficult-to-replace positions on the field.
Jacobs could’ve made an immediate impact in a thin backfield, but great running backs can be found outside the draft’s first round, and often are. Brown would’ve provided another weapon in the passing attack, but the offense is already loaded with playmakers at wide receiver. Like Dillard, Sweat was considered a potential top-10 talent but with health concerns, plus the Eagles are well stocked at defensive tackle, too.
Any of the three had a shot to contribute as rookies, possibly quite a bit.
The needs simply weren’t as dire.
Running backs, receivers and D-lineman are all readily available in the draft and free agency. It’s not nearly as easy to find a franchise left tackle without a top-10 draft pick. Some Eagles fans tend to forget this because Peters and Tra Thomas held down the fort the last 21 years.
Jordan Mailata impressed in preseason action last summer yet remains an unproven commodity — an Australian rugby player who picked up football for the first time 12 months ago. Should he ever become somebody the Eagles would insert in a real game, consider it a good problem to have. And while Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been serviceable as Peters’ backup, he appears best suited for his current role.
The Eagles had a rare opportunity to anchor the offensive line for the next decade with a pick in the back end of Round 1, so they pounced. The tremendous value alone is cause for excitement.
The roster is also constructed in such a way the Eagles could afford to select somebody who might not play. There are starting-caliber players at every position on the depth chart, and in many cases, defined backups.
And who’s to say Dillard won’t see the field? Peters missed 12 games in 2017 and was constantly in and out of the lineup in 2018. Right tackle Lane Johnson failed to suit up for at least one game in four of the last five seasons as well. This wasn’t necessarily the luxury pick it might seem.
Dillard won’t lead your fantasy football team to a championship in 2019, nor ever. Then again, a year or two from now, in a post-Jason Peters era, he may provide the Eagles the stability along the O-line to continue competing for the Super Bowl, when another team might find itself with a hole in a key area.
Further down the line, Dillard could be well on his way to becoming the franchise’s next great left tackle, which — if Peters’ and Thomas’ tenures demonstrated anything — is a formula that’s proven successful for the Eagles across two decades.
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