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11 for 11 draft series: Andre Dillard is this year’s premier upside offensive lineman

By the end of the NFL Draft, the Bengals need to draft their first offensive tackle since 2015. They can get that out of the way by selecting Dillard with the 11th overall pick.

Washington State v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

It’s been four years since the Bengals began the 2015 NFL Draft by selecting two offensive tackles in Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. The return on investment for those picks were... less than good.

Since then, the Bengals haven’t actually drafted an offensive tackle; opting to fill the position via free agency instead. In fact, the offensive line as a whole was largely an afterthought in the two drafts following 2015 up until Billy Price became the team’s first round pick last year.

If the Bengals do decide to go offensive lineman first in back to back drafts, Washington State’s Andre Dillard is a name to keep in mind.

A productive final season in Mike Leach’s offense paved the way for Dillard to start the pre-draft process at the Senior Bowl, where rumors first began of him being a future first-round pick. He then tested as the most athletic offensive tackle at the NFL combine and solidified those initial rumors.

Is Dillard good enough for the Bengals to ignore their more immediate needs on defense and draft him 11th overall? Let’s run through the pros and cons.

Why the pick makes sense for the Bengals:

  • Athleticism matters more for offensive lineman than you think. Of all the offensive tackles in this class, Dillard has the best chance at becoming an All-Pro player because of his athleticism.
  • Dillard’s athleticism is extremely evident on tape. His pass sets are extremely efficient and he’s impossible to beat around the edge on vertical sets. He gets to set points incredibly fast.
  • His punching ability is in a good place to improve and is not in need of a complete overhaul, like Ogbuehi.
  • All reports on Dillard say he’s a great person with a tremendous work ethic, which is important for players who have the potential to be much better than who they are coming into the NFL. Those are players you can bet will put in the work to develop properly.
  • As of right now, the third tackle on the Bengals’ roster is Kent Perkins, an undrafted free agent entering his third season and has just six regular season snaps to his name. Depth is needed at this position more than anywhere else on the roster.
  • Dillard projects as a left tackle but has experience playing on the right side as well. He would give the Bengals a backup at both positions.
  • Bobby Hart is signed through the 2021 season but the Bengals can get out of his contract starting next year. Cordy Glenn is signed through the 2020 season. The Bengals like to acquire future replacements at important positions as early as possible and Dillard would be an ideal replacement in waiting for either Hart or Glenn.
  • There’s a very real chance that no offensive tackle gets taken in the first 10 picks, increasing the perceived value for Cincinnati picking the first one in Dillard.

Why the pick doesn’t make sense:

  • It’s wishful thinking to assume Dillard or any offensive tackle taken with the 11th overall pick will be slated to start over Hart based on what Hart is getting paid. Unlike last year, this selection would be for depth instead of immediate impact.
  • With how front-loaded this draft class is on the defensive side of the ball, the Bengals would be robbing themselves from adding a potentially elite difference maker to their defense that needs all the help it can get.
  • Though he wouldn’t play right away, Dillard is less of a finished product than that of Jonah Williams and Dalton Risner and his outlook is heavy in terms of projection, making him slightly more risky as a prospect.
  • In Washington State’s offense, Dillard wasn’t exposed to many traditional pass sets and benefitted from that. He’ll need to adjust to doing more than just quick jump sets.
  • Dillard is also inexperienced in terms of certain run blocking aspects. While he’s a proficient zone blocker, he can get overpowered in power concepts and his hand placement and play strength are notable causes of that.
  • His arm length (33.5”) is not a real issue but it’s actually shorter than Williams’ (33.625”), whom is getting flack for his lack of traditional length.

If the pick is Dillard, it will remind some fans about the Ogbuehi selection four years ago, but that’s not fair to Dillard. The two share some similar qualities, but Dillard is a much better player leaving college than Ogbuehi was.

Under the right tutelage, Dillard can develop into a high quality player and give the Bengals assurance at one of the tackle positions for years to come.