The Tennessee Vols have one of the most underrated players in the nation on their roster.

But he may not be underrated for long.

Wide receiver Cedric Tillman was an afterthought — even for Tennessee fans — entering the 2021 season.

The former three-star recruit had just eight receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns over his first three years in Knoxville.

Last season, however, saw Tillman explode for 1,081 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 64 receptions. That’s the fourth-most receiving yards by a Vols player in a single season in Tennessee history.

Tillman, who is the leading returning wide receiver in the SEC in 2022, will be looking to improve on those numbers this upcoming season as he enters his second year in Josh Heupel’s up-tempo offense. If he puts together another stellar season, he could be a top 40 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. And if you think that’s a stretch, those aren’t my words.

Highly respected NFL analyst Greg Cosell recently discussed Tillman with 104.5 The Zone’s Buck Reising on “The Install with Greg Cosell”.

And it’s clear from Cosell’s comments that he thinks Tillman has a bright future in the NFL.

“There was a lot to like about him,” said Cosell. “He’s excellent off the snap for a big man. He could defeat press coverage without any route disruption. He also showed physicality in defeating press coverage. He played big. He played powerfully. When he had free access off the ball, I thought he was pretty explosive getting into his routes.”

“Because of that stride length, he played fast,” added Cosell. “He may not be a 4.38 guy — my guess says he won’t be, but he played fast. He had great balance, great body control. He can stop on a dime which you don’t see very often with big receivers like that. And he’s very, very competitive. He made a ton of tough catches, contested catches on the sideline. He caught through contact in the middle of the field.”

“To me, he has the look and feel of an NFL receiver,” suggested Cosell. “He’ll put up numbers. I could easily see him being a top 40 pick in the draft.”

If Tillman ends up being drafted in the top 40 next spring, it will give Heupel and his staff an incredible recruiting pitch to use.

Tillman was going nowhere fast before Heupel’s arrival. And that wasn’t Tillman’s fault — he wasn’t in a good situation with the previous coaching staff at Tennessee. Heupel and his staff, however, know how to properly use Tillman’s skills. They put him in a great position to succeed last season. It was up to Tillman to put in the work, but there’s no doubt that Heupel helped unlock his potential.

I can’t imagine a better recruiting pitch to a wide receiver. Come to Tennessee, put up mega numbers, and get drafted early.

If Heupel can turn a three-star wide receiver into a first-round or second-round pick, imagine what he can do with a five-star wide receiver.

The sky truly is the limit for offensive skill players in Heupel’s offense.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK