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NFL Draft Profile: Cedric Tillman

Tillman’s 2022 didn’t go as planned — but don’t forget about the 2021 tape.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cedric Tillman’s Tennessee career didn’t end like he wanted, much like Hendon Hooker. Injuries ended up cutting both of their 2022 seasons short, in what could have been a record-smashing campaign. Thankfully for Tennessee, Hooker found a way to get things done without Tillman in some big spots, thanks to a ridiculous year from Jalin Hyatt.

But we’re left to wonder — what if Tennessee had a healthy Tillman all that time? He pretty clearly was never right after he returned, either. Tillman suffered a high ankle sprain against Akron, which forced him to miss the LSU, Florida and Alabama games. He wasn’t the same guy when he came back, which makes his NFL evaluation a little more difficult.

The good news for Tillman? Lights out tape against Alabama and Georgia during the 2021 season. That was the real eye-opener for the NFL, putting him squarely on the radar. Tillman declined the draft last season, opting to comeback for what he felt like could be a special season with Hooker. A special season it was, but unfortunately, Tillman didn’t have the year he thought he would.

However, Tillman is finally healthy once again. A big final season could have thrown him into the first round conversation, but now he’s likely slotted for a third round landing spot.


Size: 6-3, 213 pounds

Arm length: 32 3/4”

Hands: 10”

40 yard dash: 4.54

10 yard split: 1.53

Vertical: 37”

Broad: 10’ 8”

Age: 22


Tillman was a late take by Tennessee in the class of 2018, coming in as a prospect that ranked outside of the top 1500 players overall. It was purely a size/speed take by Jeremy Pruitt’s staff, one that had zero hype at the time. To his credit, he waited his turn, too. Tillman entered the picture buried on the depth chart behind names like Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings and Josh Palmer. Outside of a couple of flashes, we really didn’t see Tillman play significant snaps until Josh Heupel arrived.

With the depth chart cleared ahead of him, Tillman capitalized on his chance to be WR1. Heupel’s deep-shot offense suited him, too. He put up 1,000 yards during the 2021 season — Tennessee’s first 1,000 yard receiver since Justin Hunter back in 2012.

He ended his Tennessee career with 1,622 yards and 17 touchdowns.

NFL Projection

A legitimate 6-3 frame with 4.5 speed that can work downfield, there’s a lot to like with here. It’s important to evaluate Tillman when he was playing at full strength, because he lacked some explosiveness when he returned late in 2022. Watching the Pitt tape before injury, you see those explosive strides in action. You also get a really nice idea of what he can by watching the Alabama tape from 2021.

Tennessee leaned hard on Tillman’s 50-50 ability back in 2021, which was a luxury for Hendon Hooker. Tillman knows how to post up and get his body in winning situations, and his wingspan creates a nice catch radius in those contested situations.

He’s not a burner by any stretch, but time and time again, you saw Tillman end up getting behind defenses consistently. Maybe it’s the strides, maybe it’s the lack of suddenness that lulls corners to sleep, but Tillman made a living down the field for the Volunteers in 2021.

Tillman isn’t the elite level athlete to be a truly dominant WR1 at the next level, but I’m guessing he’s going to be a nice fit as a WR2 pretty quickly.

Round Projection: Late 2nd/Early 3rd