With Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce already established in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future, the Indianapolis Colts need to find a rotational piece who can be an impact player to take some pressure off of Pittman and Pierce. One answer could be Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman.
Tillman, a three-star prospect from Nevada, redshirted his first season in 2018 and struggled to make an impact until 2021. Tillman exploded onto the scene in his redshirt junior season. Becoming the first Volunteer to cross the 1,000-yard mark, TIllman racked up 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns on 64 receptions.
With sky-high expectations, Tillman started 2022 on a tear with 15 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown in the Volunteer’s first two games of the season. Unfortunately, Tillman injured his ankle and would miss the next four games. In only six games, he still managed to haul in 37 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns.
He declared for the NFL Draft and opted out of the Orange Bowl and will be at the NFL Combine next week. But how can his game help and fit in with Indianapolis?
Scouting a receiver in Tennessee’s wide set offense is difficult as their offense is predicated on spacing. But Tillman has plenty of positive traits that could be utilized in Steichen’s offense.
Chris Ballard has a formula for receivers: big, fast, and explosive. Listed at 6’3”, 215 pounds, the redshirt senior certainly fits that bill. He won’t wow you with his speed, but he tracks the ball downfield better than most in this draft class and wins with physicality at the top of his route and at the catch point. Coming off an ankle injury, Tillman’s explosiveness fell off slightly. But according to Pro Football Focus, his average depth of target was still 14.4 yards in 2022.
Tillman is also as sure-handed as they come. In 167 targets, PFF credited Tillman with only five drops throughout his career. An important characteristic for a physical, downfield threat.
There are some things to work out if Tillman’s game is going to transfer to the NFL. First off, Tennessee’s lack of a true route tree failed to develop Tillman’s route-running techniques. Tillman was virtually asked to only run slants, curls, and go balls. If he’s going to become a consistently productive NFL player, he will certainly need to develop a wider variety of routes.
If Ballard wants to improve the receiving corps in Indianapolis, Tillman would fit perfectly with his measurables as well as in Steichen’s scheme. With Tillman in Indy, Steichen could occasionally throw Michael Pittman Jr. into the slot to dominate across the middle, an area he has thrived in so far in his career. Instead of utilizing a tight end like they did in Philadelphia, MPJ would fill in closely to Dallas Goedert’s role with the Eagles. Trotting out Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, and Cedric Tillman would put fear into the eyes of most NFL defenses, and would be the perfect security blanket for a rookie quarterback.