Our NFL rookie profile series continues with analysis of 2023 NFL Draft Prospect Cedric Tillman, WR from Tennessee. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league.
In a rookie class populated by smaller-framed receivers, Cedric Tillman is one of the bigger receivers in the prospect pool. After an injury-shortened season saw the production funneled to teammate Jalin Hyatt, how should we view Tillman as a dynasty asset approaching the draft?
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference.
Tillman was born with NFL bloodlines. His father played at the NFL level for five seasons. Tillman was a three-star recruit out of a Las Vegas high school. He committed to Tennessee and was redshirted for his freshman season, appearing in one game for -3 receiving yards. The following two seasons did not improve dramatically for him as he managed only seven receptions over those two years.
He had his breakout campaign in his junior season. He finished 2021 leading the Volunteers in receptions (64), receiving yards (1,081), and touchdowns (12) while averaging 2.46 yards per route run. In the highly competitive SEC, Tillman finished with the fifth-most receiving yards, the second-most yards per reception, and the third-most receiving touchdowns during the 2021 season. He set the school record for the most consecutive games with a receiving touchdown.
After being the first Volunteers receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards since 2012, many expected Tillman to pick up where he left off. Unfortunately, a left ankle injury shortened his senior campaign. He only started six games and accumulated 417 receiving yards and three scores during that span.
We will begin with a game from 2021. In week seven, Tillman began to get hot and did so against an always formidable Alabama defense.
Tillman plays the role of blocker for the first handful of plays. At the 53-second mark, he takes off on a deep fade, gains separation from his defender, makes an adjustment to the ball, and reels it in for a 39-yard gain.
There are multiple receptions across the middle and a couple of comeback routes. Despite almost exclusively lining up on the right side of the formation, he frequently displays no fear of contact underneath or across the middle of the field.
At 5:25, he wriggles free of coverage on another big play and scores from close to 70 yards out.
This game shows multiple facets of Tillman’s game. He is physical, explosive, and shows strong hands. He shows well in contested catch situations. He has elite ball skills and body control while being able to track the ball and adjust to maximize efficiency after reeling one in.
The cons in this particular game are two occurrences of false start penalties and a lack of diversity on a full route tree. While not a one-trick pony, his route tree is somewhat limited and could use refinement.
Tillman finished this game with seven receptions for 152 receiving yards and one touchdown. From weeks seven through 12, there was only one game where he did not finish with over 100 receiving yards.
Data courtesy of RAS Football.
This draft class has plenty to offer in terms of diminutive wide receivers with speed, many of whom are 5’10” and 190 lbs or smaller.
Tillman is not that receiver. While not possessing that second gear for breakaway speed, he possesses a combination of size, strength, and athleticism. He fits more of the prototypical X designation and primarily lined up on the right side of the formation throughout college.
He has learned to utilize his larger frame to bully defenders at the catch point and displays exceptional body control, even through contact. Both his vertical and broad jump display some of the raw explosiveness coveted by teams at the next level.
He currently slots in as the WR8 overall in rookie drafts. One of the knocks against him is his age, as he will take his first NFL snap as a 23-year-old rookie.
While not as speedy or currently possessing a highly diverse and refined route tree, Tillman brings size, good hands, and physicality that hint at the potential of a valuable red zone target at the NFL level.
He is best suited for NFL teams that are looking for a solid WR2 with red zone appeal and to be utilized in three-wide sets.
For dynasty purposes, Tillman needs a landing spot that allows him to complement the current receiving core to utilize and develop the strong physical traits he already possesses and develop those where he could use some improvement. It is doubtful he immediately fulfills a possession-type role as he could take some time to acclimate to both NFL offenses and bigger, stronger, faster defensive fronts and schemes. That being said, he could find immediate use as a touchdown threat.
- 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Prospect: Cedric Tillman, WR from Tennessee - April 16, 2023
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