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Browns draft pick earns prized ‘sleeper’ tag

Wide receiver Cedric Tillman impressed college coaches surveyed by ESPN: “big, physical guys do well.”

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry received some praise in some circles for getting “value” from the club’s seven draft selections.

With no selections in the first two rounds, Berry had the freedom/necessity to take some chances - offensive tackle Dawand Jones comes to mind - and the result was landing players much later in the draft than they were projected to be selected.

Along with the value picks, Berry was able to pick up wide receiver Cedric Tillman from Tennessee, a selection that was lauded as a “sleeper pick” in an article by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that asked 30 college coaches for their opinion on the draft.

And even though his college teammate Jalin Hyatt earned some more publicity, Tillman was touted for his size and his ability to bring more to the field:

Although coaches noted the potential challenges for Tennessee players transitioning to NFL offenses, they liked Tillman, even more so than the player drafted right before him, fellow Vols wideout Jalin Hyatt. Although Hyatt won the Biletnikoff Award and finished fifth nationally in receiving yards, Tillman made his mark when healthy last season and through 2021, when he became Tennessee’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Justin Hunter in 2012.

“Tillman’s got better hands,” an SEC defensive coordinator said. “Hyatt, when he was wide open, they could use his speed. They did a great job of creating open receivers. When he had to make contested catches, he struggled. Tillman will do a good job. Those big, physical guys do well.”

Another Power 5 coordinator added: “His route tree’s bigger. He’s just got more to offer.”

Tillman also has an advocate in Cleveland quarterback Josh Dobbs, a fellow Tennessee alumnus. While not certainly not impartial, Dobbs believes Tillman’s size will be a benefit to the offense in both the passing and run games (quote via The Beacon Journal):

“When (Cedric’s) been healthy, man, he’s been very difficult to stop. He was a deep-ball threat last year, and then early this year. He did a great job making the contested catchers down the field and is adding to that part of the offense, as well as obviously being a big body in our scheme. That’ll fit in well with being able to get dirty and excel in helping the run game.”

Dobbs also touched on one aspect raised in the ESPN story about the transition that Tennessee players undergo while going from the high-tempo offense favored by Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel to ones used by NFL teams.

But rather than seeing that as a detriment, Dobbs believes the skills needed to succeed at Tennessee will translate to the NFL, and especially to head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense (quote via The Beacon Journal):

“At the end of the day, you can see the playmaking skills. I think that’s really good about the Coach Heupel offense, right? Guys are put in one-on-one situations because the defense has to play them like that, and so guys have to go out and win their one-on-one matchups, whether it’s down the field or in their intermediate passing game.

“And so in our offense, we’re very similar with having (running back Nick) Chubb, so guys have to stack the box. So guys are able, on the outside, to be put in one-on-one situations.”

Tillman may enter his first training camp as a “sleeper” draft pick, but if he puts it together the way Dobbs and the anonymous coaches believe he can, it won’t be long before no one is sleeping on him.