The Jets recently signed tight end Brandon Dillon to a futures deal. Today we break him down in detail.
The 24-year old Dillon is listed at 6’5” and 250 pounds and was undrafted out of Marian in 2019. He has played in five NFL games with one catch for six yards, and has been in the Jets organization since they signed him to their practice squad in December.
Dillon was a three-sport athlete at high school and had the chance to play for a few NCAA schools as a preferred walk-on but instead decided to attend small school Marian.
In four years there, he caught over 100 passes, including 35 catches for 603 yards and five scores in a senior season that saw him named as an NAIA all-American first-teamer.
After playing at the collegiate bowl and attending Purdue’s pro day, Dillon earned a contract with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. He was considered an extreme long-shot to make the team but impressed in camp and had a good preseason to take advantage of some injuries and end up on the opening day roster.
He played in the first game but then was moved onto the practice squad for the rest of the season and then signed a futures deal. In 2020, he was released in final cuts and again spent the year on the practice squad, although he was elevated three times. He again signed a futures deal after the season.
In 2021, Dillon started off on the active roster but only played in one game and again spent most of the year on the practice squad. The Jets picked him up in late December when Minnesota let him go and he signed the third futures deal of his career to stay with them.
Now let’s take a look at what Dillon brings to the table, divided into categories.
Dillon has adequate size but has short arms which limits him as a blocker and in terms of his catch radius.
At his pro day workout, he did pretty well as his broad jump and agility numbers were above average and his other numbers were acceptable. His official 40-yard dash time was 4.77.
Dillon saw most of his action during preseason lined up inline with the Vikings but also shows the ability to be effective out wide or out of the slot. He didn’t see any action in the backfield.
Dillon showed his downfield abilities by averaging 16 yards per catch in his college career, including 17 in his senior year and has already shown an ability to stretch the field by going down the seam during preseason action.
He got open downfield on a blown coverage for this long touchdown although it was negated by a penalty.
Dillon has already been able to showcase his abilities on a variety of routes, including in the flat, crossing over the middle and getting downfield.
He shows good technique on this post route to use an arm-over move to get across the linebacker’s face.
On this play, Dillon looks sharp as he breaks to the inside for the catch on the curl route.
As noted, Dillon doesn’t have a very big catch radius and his hands are also below average-sized. However, he shows an ability to catch the ball in traffic and to go down to the turf to catch a low throw. He had a viral moment with this amazing catch in camp.
He did, however, drop a couple of passes in preseason and half-juggled a couple of others so he doesn’t always look like a natural hands catcher.
Dillon didn’t see any red zone action in preseason, but showed his abilities to be a red zone threat with 14 touchdowns in his college career.
Yards after the catch
Dillon isn’t particularly powerful or elusive as a runner but does display the ability to turn upfield and get to the first down marker.
On this play, he does manage to slip a tackle in the open field that gains him about 10 extra yards.
Dillon had mixed results as a run blocker in preseason but noticeably gives a good effort in the trenches.
There are some signs of rawness from him, though. He got completely overpowered here, as he allowed his man to blow up this running play.
Dillon had better success making this block in space to help set up a big outside run after lining up outside.
In preseason, Dillon was called for one penalty, which was for offensive holding on a running play.
Dillon only stayed in to pass protect a few times in each of his preseason appearances so this is an area where he probably needs more experience to develop. He didn’t give up any pressure though.
Dillon contributed on a variety of special teams unit with the Vikings, including in punt protection, as a blocker on kick return units and in kick coverage. He didn’t make any meaningful contributions or mistakes.
Although he played at a much lower level in college, Mike Zimmer praised how smart Dillon was and he didn’t seem to blow any obvious assignments with the Vikings. He showed some ability to find a soft spot in coverage here.
Dillon impressed the Vikings coaches with his work ethic, as he relished the challenge of being an underdog in his fight for a roster spot. He also shows toughness in his willingness to go over the middle and hang onto the ball.
Injuries weren’t a problem for Dillon in college, as he played 42 games in four years. However, he spent time on the practice squad injured list in 2020 after injuring his ankle. He also spend time on the Covid-19 reserve list shortly after that.
Dillon should be a good fit within the Jets’ system, as there are plenty of similarities. Gary Kubiak was the Vikings’ assistant head coach in 2019 and offensive coordinator in 2020 and he was the first head coach to give Kyle Shanahan an offensive coordinator job.
He was a teammate of fellow futures signing Dru Samia while they were both in Minnesota.
Dillon only got his shot with the Jets because they basically had all their tight ends either injured or on the Covid-19 list at the same time and, eventually, they got healthy enough that he wasn’t needed in 2021.
However, he practiced with the team for a few weeks and they decided to offer him a futures deal, which wasn’t the case with all their practice squad members, so perhaps he’s shown some promise in the short time he’s been with the team.
It was such a big jump from the NAIA level straight to the NFL that it’s remarkable Dillon has made it this far. Clearly he has some ability, which he’s displayed in flashes during preseason. The Jets will probably view him as a long-shot project, but the tight end position is certainly one where there is room for someone to step up and earn a role.