Just like last year, Cleveland was without a first and second-round draft pick in the 2023 draft. Their first selection wouldn’t be until pick #74 in Round 3 and again at #99. With not being able to take any of the blue chippers, Berry’s choices have to be spot-on.
With not picking until the third round, a whole lot of premium talent will have already been distributed around the league. Berry has stated he prefers to let the draft come to him. With picking at the Number 74 slot, he really didn’t have much of a choice.
With 13 receivers already on the roster, the first player he selected was Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman.
Tillman is a big-bodied player standing 6’-3” and weighing 215 pounds. A look at the Browns’ roster, he compares to Isaiah Weston (6’-4”, 214 pounds), Donovan Peoples-Jones (6’-2”, 204 pounds), and Daylen Baldwin (6’-2”, 212 pounds).
Tillman grew up in Las Vegas and attended Bishop Gorman High School. In his senior season, he had 37 receptions for 774 yards with a 20.9 yards per catch average and scored seven touchdowns receiving and one rushing TD. In his junior campaign, Tillman had 45 catches for 847 yards, an 18.8 average with 10 touchdowns.
Gorman was a Nevada Class 4-A powerhouse. The school’s football squad won the state championship from 2009 to 2018. This means Tillman played on the state champions every season he played football. He earned NIAA All-State honors and First Team All-Southwest League honors. At the conclusion of Tillman’s senior year, Gorman had won 54 straight games.
He was rated a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com and ran a 4.55 in the 40. Tillman had offers from Hawai’i, UNLV, Tennessee, Weber State and USC. Oddly enough, he did not have official visits to any school except Tennessee, which he chose.
In his first year at Tennessee, he played in four games before being redshirted. Then in his true freshman season, his playing time was reduced to three games with four receptions for 60 yards and one touchdown. As a sophomore, it was pretty much the same playing in just two games.
Tillman’s junior year is where he really busted out. He played in all 12 games and he had 64 receptions for 1,081 yards with a 16.9 yards per game average and scored 12 touchdowns.
Coming off the best season of his career, Tillman had aspirations of going into the NFL draft but decided to stay another year after QB Hendon Hooker announced he was returning. Their decisions gave Tennessee one of the best quarterback-receiver combos in the SEC.
Regarding his decision to remain one more season, Tillman stated on Twitter:
“Since I arrived at Tennessee in 2018, it’s been an amazing experience, and Vol Nation is second to none. The 2021 season has been a blast with these boys, and we are fired up about finishing the year in Nashville at the Music City Bowl. “We are constantly striving for improvement — as a team and in everything we do. While I have made significant strides in my game this year, I feel like I have much left to prove in the Orange & White. Therefore, I will be returning for my 2022 senior season in Knoxville. LET’S RUN IT BACK!”
Because of the COVID-19 exempt year in 2020, Tillman actually had two years of eligibility remaining.
His senior season began promising but did not end well.
In Week 2 against #17 ranked Pitt, Tillman had nine catches for 162 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 34-27 win. The following week they played Akron. Tillman suffered an ankle injury that would impact his production for the remainder of the season. He did return against Kentucky in late October and finished the season with 37 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns playing in only six games. Although Tennessee was invited to play in the Orange Bowl, Tillman did not participate.
For his college career, Tillman had 109 receptions for 1,622 yards, a 14.9 average yards per reception with 17 total touchdowns.
Tillman is listed in the University of Tennessee’s record books for the following:
- Receiving touchdowns single season: 12 (ranked 2nd)
- Consecutive games with a touchdown catch: 7 (ranked 1st)
During his tenure at Tennessee, he racked up 535 yards and four touchdowns vs. AP Top-25 opponents.
On to the professional game
Tillman is a big receiver who is very physical and can make numerous impactful plays.
Scouting report on NFL Draft Buzz:
Tillman is a very good wide receiver pro prospect. He has impressive size - ideal for the position, combined with excellent overall length, outstanding vertical explosion, and reliable soft hands and he’s also put up elite production at the highest level of college football. He however isn’t perfect and you certainly couldn’t classify him as a burner and had a serious ankle injury that cut short his 2022 season - although he looked fully recovered at the combine. Overall he probably deserves a second selection in the 2023 NFL draft and will likely have a productive pro career, with a chance to put up some serious numbers at the next level.
He arrives in Berea in a very crowded receiver room. 14 in all including Tillman: David Bell, Jaelon Darden, Anthony Schwartz, Amari Cooper, DPJ, Michael Woods (on IR), Elijah Moore, Marquise Goodwin, Weston, Marquez Stevenson, Mike Harley, Jr., Jakeem Grant, and Baldwin.
Grant is primarily a return man but received high praise in training camp last season before he became injured. Baldwin, Harley, and Stevenson were members of the practice squad. Schwartz ended up on IR.
With the drafting of Tillman, one has to wonder if this points to the franchise preparing for DPJ to play himself out of the club’s budget plans next season instead of signing him to a larger paycheck.
Tillman has the tools to make a difference for the Browns. He can eat up significant turf with his length and does well with bending his route stems to set up breaks. He has exceptional body control. Tillman is not a contested catch guy but he does an outstanding job of establishing leverage at the catch point.
Reasons to buy into Tillman are his size, ball skills, and embody control. The negatives are his route tree expansion is limited, he has modest yards after contact skill set, and his acclimation to the next level promises to be vastly different.
Cedric Tillman: HONORS & AWARDS
- Reese’s Senior Bowl Offensive Player of the Week (at Pitt, 9/10/22)
- 2021 All-SEC Second Team (Phil Steele)
- 2020 Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll
- 2019 Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll
- 2018-19 First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll
- Owns the school record for consecutive games with a TD catch at seven from Oct. 16 to Dec. 30, 2021
Tillman’s Twitter handle is @Ctillman04 and Instagram handle is @tilly2on.
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