NFL draft: Browns’ first pick is wide receiver in third round

Credit: Keith Srakocic

Credit: Keith Srakocic

BEREA, Ohio — The Browns are giving Deshaun Watson everything he needs.

After sitting out two rounds, Cleveland selected Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman with the No. 74 overall pick in the NFL draft on Friday night.

“Another tool in our toolbox for Deshaun,” said Catherine Raiche, the team’s assistant general manager and vice president of football operations. “It was definitely worth the wait.”

Tillman’s arrival comes after the Browns, who only had Watson on the field for six games last season following his NFL suspension, traded for receiver Elijah Moore, signed free agent receiver Marquise Goodwin and tight end Jordan Akins.

“I’m fired up,” Tillman said on a conference call with Cleveland media. “Deshaun Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. I’m really looking forward getting to all my teammates and new brothers and new coaches and stuff, so I’m excited.”

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Tillman had 37 catches for 417 and three touchdowns last season, but was limited to six games because of an ankle injury. His size, ability to run multiple routes and strong character attracted him to the Browns.

Tillman comes from NFL stock. His father, Cedric, was drafted in 1992 and played four seasons in the league.

“He plays a brand of football we’re trying to play,” assistant GM Glenn Cook said.

Tillman had 64 catches for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021. He had 10 catches for 200 yards and a TD against Georgia’s fierce defense.

He’ll join a receiving corps in Cleveland that includes Amari Cooper, a player Tillman has followed since he was a star at Alabama.

The 23-year-old Tillman was already familiar to the Browns as team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam are major Tennessee boosters.

Cleveland also picked Baylor defensive tackle Siaka Ika, a compensatory selection the Browns received when former team executive Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired as Minnesota’s general manager in 2022.

The Browns entered this draft without a first- or second-round pick, and that was by their own doing.

Desperate to find a franchise quarterback after so many failed attempts, Cleveland sent its 2023 first-rounder and two more (2022 and 2024) to Houston last year in the trade for Watson.

The all-in move has yet to pay off after Watson was suspended 11 games last season by the NFL for violating its personal conduct policy. He was accused of sexual harassment and assault by two dozen women in Texas.

To get Watson some receiving help, the Browns dealt their second-round pick (No. 42) to the New York Jets in March for the speedy Moore. Cleveland also got back the 74th selection in the deal and used it for Tillman.

Usually, a team picking so deep would be established, perhaps a Super Bowl winner or one coming off a deep postseason.

That’s certainly not the Browns, who went 7-10 last season as their defense struggled.

Cleveland focused on fixing that side of the ball in the offseason, first hiring coordinator Jim Schwartz and then signing several free agents, including run-stopping tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and safety Juan Thornhill, who won a Super Bowl last season with Kansas City.

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