By Dylan MacKinnon
With the 37th pick, the Eagles decided to double down on Alabama players. Specifically on Bama player on offense. They too Center/ Guard combo Landon Dickerson, who many think is Jason Kelce’s future replacement, and in the meantime, someone to push Seamalu, and insurance in case Brandon Brooks gets hurt. But who is Landon, and was he worth a high 2nd round pick? Let’s get to know the newest Eagles.
No Questions About Talent
While many will have questions about the Dickerson pick, they won’t be about his play on the field. Many think if it weren’t for injury concerns, he could have been a first-round pick.
Dickerson is an All American, All-SEC, and a Rimington Award winner. I don’t know how much stock should be put in PFF Grades, but for what it’s worth, he was the 2nd highest graded run blocker and the highest among interior linemen.
One of the main things you will notice about him is his size. He is 6’6” 325 pounds, he won’t run into very many people bigger than him on a football field. And that size certainly translates to power. Watch some game tape and you will see a fair number of players on their asses because he just pushed them right over. For a sense of just how big and strong he is, here is what an NFL Executive told NFL Network about him.
“I love him. I know some people around the league think he’s still under the radar, but I doubt that. He reminds me of Mountain from ‘Game of Thrones’. Just big and strong and tough.” — Executive for NFL team
He also offers positional versatility, having spent time all along the line. Need him to be in at Center, done. Brooks goes down again and they need a guard, done. Do you need someone to fill in at tackle, he can probably do that too.
If he does not pan out, it’s hard to see it being about ability. The only knock on his game is a lack of athleticism. And if he is in at center or guard that becomes much less of an issue. Eagles fans have been spoiled with a center that can keep up downfield with the running backs. But the prototypical Center is still a big old boy who will put guys on their ass with a power blocking technique.
Beloved by Teammates
Ask the people who have played with Landon, and they will all gush. That is why in the Championship game last year, everyone rallied around an injured Dickerson, to bring him in during the final moments of the win. Dickerson thanked Nick Saban for that moment by carrying him on his shoulders.
Just listen to the stuff his teammates had to say about Dickerson and his injury. DeVonta Smith had this to say.
“It’s a big loss. Just with one of the leaders on our team, leader on our offense. The one who gets the front moving, gets everything going. So it’s a big loss. It was tough when it happened but everybody came out there and told him that they loved him and that we were going to do this for him. And that’s what we’re going to do.” – DeVonta Smith
So we know the Eagles first-round pick is a fan of Dickerson. So was his QB, Mac Jones.
“That hurt really bad, honestly. Landon is one of my best friends, and if Landon is going to stay on the ground then you know something’s wrong. He tried to get up, but I think our trainers were like ‘Stay down, stay down. It just goes to show, that guy will put his whole life on the line for Alabama football, and if he could he’d play as soon as he can for us because he just wants to be back, but obviously the injuries are the injuries.”- Mac Jones
Dickerson won his teammates over with his sense of humor, his dedication, his will to continually bounce back from injuries, and his hard-nosed play style. If he is to be Jason Kelce’s heir, they found the perfect guy, because he has many of the same traits that made Eagles players and fans fall in love with Kelce.
All the respect for Landon Dickerson🙏— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 20, 2020
A Long Injury History
Those injuries are the concern though. In 5 years, he made it through one without suffering an injury that finished his season. He tore his ACL his Freshmen year at Flordia State. Then he followed that up with an ankle injury that ended his sophomore campaign. Another ankle injury ended his Junior year after only two games, which lead to him redshirting and later transferring to Alabama. There he finally played a full season with no injuries. And this year he seemed poised to do it again before a second torn ACL in the SEC Championship again ended his season.
Four major injuries are certainly a red flag. And two ACLS and two ankle injuries are fairly scary ones as well. But the good news is despite all of those, he still played at a high level and fought to return each time. He may be injury-prone, but he is tough as nails. The hope will be these arent injuries that carry over. Ankles and ACLS can heal, and we have seen players return at a high level and go on to have healthy careers. But he will certainly be a guy they have to monitor, and it’s certainly a risk to invest a 2nd round pick in a guy with only one healthy year.
For context of how players fare coming into the NFL when they have already had two major knee injuries, here are 3 recent examples.
Recent history for players with two major knee injuries before getting to NFL is not pretty.— Dylan MacKinnon (@DylanFMackinnon) May 1, 2021
John Ross, 1 ACL and 1 MCL in college, oft injured in NFL.
Jake Butt, two ACLs in college, tore it again in NFL
Dominique Easley- Two ACLs in college, tore another ACL in NFL
Ross has played 27 games in 4 seasons. Butt played 8 across 4 seasons. Easley played 41 across 5 seasons, and hasn’t played in the NFL since 2018.
What the Experts Think
Ascending interior lineman whose outstanding play at Alabama will have to be balanced against the litany of injuries he’s sustained. He has a broad, well-built frame with above-average core strength and has true guard/center flexibility, depending on what a team is looking for. Dickerson has average range and reactive athleticism at the second level, but he is capable of short pulls and has the body control technique to help open holes in a downhill attack. The anchor is firm, so halting bull rushers is a check in his column, but his lateral agility could be tested by athletic rushers in sub packages. Teams will love his demeanor on and off the field as well as his football intelligence, but he must prove that he can stay healthy. His size and talent should make him one of the earliest interior linemen off the board.
Dickerson is a stoutly built interior blocker that has a well-developed understanding of how to use his frame. Extremely strong at the point of attack, he has above average hand power, body strength, and awareness. Although a below-average athlete, he wins with acceleration out of his stance by latching on quickly and not allowing matchups to detach. At his best when asked to stay within a controlled environment that hardly ever exceeds the B gaps, he’s constantly looking for work on either side. Playing through the whistle is constant, as he has the control to steer and direct targets to desired locations. The biggest concern with Dickerson is durability.
If he is healthy, he could be a stud. The word if is one with a lot of weight, especially with this team and their draft history. The last time the Eagles took a risk on an injured guy in the 2nd round, was Sidney Jones. It didn’t go well. There is reason to believe this could be different. Jones’s issues went far beyond his injury, and he came back from it lacking confidence in his game. Nothing about Dickerson suggests he will be that way, and we have in fact seen him overcome injuries and come back just fine. Confidence and motivation will not be a problem for him, it will only be availability.
Eagles fans not on board with taking a guy with this extensive injury history can’t be blamed. But there is a reason many teams, including obviously the Eagles, felt it was worth that risk. Because Dickerson has All-Pro potential at Center, he just needs to stay on the field.