Draft Analysis: Pick 7.252—Tyrie Cleveland
It's easy to make a case for Netane Muti, the Broncos' 6th round pick. The same cannot be said of Tyrie Cleveland.
There just aren't that many positives on his resume. Cleveland's college career probably peaked the moment he set foot on the University of Florida campus as the number 52 player on ESPN's top 300 list. His four years of Gator football all looked alike, with each season culminating in about 20 receptions for 200–400 yards. At least in terms of production, there was no progress, no growth.
A review of the available tape is also underwhelming. Cleveland's most impressive moment comes against Florida St. when he executes a great dig route. I love how he chops his feet, sinks his hips, and breaks hard and flat to the middle of the field (top of the screen).
It's a well-done route. But to sustain success as a route runner it's necessary to layer deception on top of the fundamentals. I didn't see any reason to think he's capable of adding that element. Here he is executing a similar route to the one he ran in the first clip, but not getting the result he'd hoped for (top of the screen).
The solid fundamentals are still present, but Cleveland does nothing to sell the pattern. This is concerning. It's extremely rare for a receiver to become a deceptive route runner in the NFL after showing virtually nothing in that area across four years of college ball.
On top of that, Cleveland has issues getting off the line of scrimmage against press coverage (bottom of the screen):
He drops far too many easy passes, too (top of the screen):
(inside slot, top of the screen):
And he does not look like a threat with the ball in his hands, despite possessing decent straight-line speed (bottom of the screen).
These last two points are borne out by the stats: he has as many drops (10) as broken tackles (10) in his four year career.
I've seen multiple analysts note that Cleveland is "honed in" and "engaged" on special teams. I don't really understand what that means, but maybe it just draws a contrast with his play as a wide receiver, in which he is notably not "honed in" (top of the screen).
Perhaps Elway and company view Cleveland purely as a special teams player. Even if that's the case, I have a hard time endorsing the pick. Unless a guy looks like the next Steve Tasker, Matthew Slater, or Kassim Osgood—and there's no evidence that Cleveland is anything like those special teams phenoms—it isn't worth drafting a player that you expect to contribute exclusively on special teams.
Of course, we don't know exactly what role Elway and company have in mind for Cleveland. It doesn't look like he has a clear path to success as a wide receiver, but I'll certainly be rooting for him to make it as a Bronco—even if that means balling out on the special teams unit for his whole career.