2020 NFL Draft: Three NFL Team Fits for WR Tyrie Cleveland
As we move on with our Florida Gators NFL team fits, it's time to take a look at the curious case of wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland.
Cleveland, a four-year Gator, enrolled at Florida as one of the top wide receiver prospects in the nation, ranked No. 3 at his position by the 247Sports Composite. Though, if you take a look at Cleveland's production at Florida, you wouldn't ever guess that.
During his tenure, Cleveland posted 79 receptions for 1271 yards and eight touchdowns. His counterpart over the past two years and fellow 2020 NFL Draft prospect, Van Jefferson, bested him receptions and touchdowns and fell just 111 yards short of Cleveland's career production - in just two seasons after transferring from Ole Miss.
But there's a reason Cleveland was such a highly-rated recruit, and there's just as much reason as to why he was invited to the NFL Combine and is projected to be drafted. Standing at 6-2, 209 lbs., with 4.46-second speed in the 40-yard dash and a prominent 39.5-inch vertical jump, Cleveland has all the intangibles that a team would want in a receiver.
Just look at how he compares athletically to the typical wide receiver at the NFL Combine since 1999, according to MockDraftable's web chart.
And these percentiles go without adjusting to size, a rather key component regarding athleticism. Cleveland is a plus-sized receiver, with the speed and explosion that you'd expect from a receiver smaller in stature.
Not to mention, Cleveland's speed and size have served him well as a special teamer for Florida, playing across each unit. The NFL values those who take part in special teams, and it was evident at the 2020 Senior Bowl that the NFL wants to put Cleveland in a special teams role.
With that being said, an NFL team is likely to select Cleveland in the upcoming NFL Draft. He won't be a high pick, especially when you consider just how deep this wide receiver class is, but it isn't easy to find an athlete of Cleveland's mold. We will put Cleveland in the late day three range for this exercise - looking to be selected in rounds six or seven.
Which three teams could come calling?
Los Angeles Chargers
Picks in Cleveland's projected range: Sixth round, 187th overall; Seventh round, 221st overall
The Los Angeles Chargers are shifting as a franchise after recently moving on from long-time starting quarterback Philip Rivers. As things stand, veteran backup Tyrod Taylor is projected to step up as the team's starter, but don't be shocked to see Los Angeles select a quarterback in the first round of the draft next month.
Whoever receives snaps for the Chargers going forward has several appealing weapons at their disposal, notably wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Hunter Henry. Though, the Chargers recently moved on from deep-threat receiver Travis Benjamin as he has dealt with injury, and Cleveland would fill that role with a late pick as wide receiver isn't an early need.
At worst, Cleveland's speed can take the top off of defenses in Los Angeles' offense to open things up underneath for Allen, Henry, and others. But as those two are well-respected receivers themselves, Cleveland would find ample opportunities for himself within that offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Picks in Cleveland's projected range: Sixth round, 195th overall
Unless you live under a rock, you've heard that quarterback Tom Brady has left the New England Patriots to start a new adventure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not many saw the six-time Super Bowl winner electing to leave the Patriots, but Brady was up for a new challenge at this point in his career.
In Tampa, Brady will be gifted two elite receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and a high-potential tight end in O.J. Howard, but the Buccaneers' roster is far from a finished product. Much like Los Angeles, the Buccaneers elected to not bring back a solid No. 3 receiver in Breshad Perriman this offseason, who Cleveland bears resemblance to on the field as a big-bodied deep-threat.
The Buccaneers are going all-in with their new quarterback, in order to extend his career as he's already 43 years old and certainly past his prime. Taking Cleveland later in the draft as a complementary piece to Evans and Godwin would allow the Bucs to patch up other needs early on.
New York Giants
Picks in Cleveland's projected range: Sixth round, 184th overall; Seventh round: 219th, 239th, 248th (compensatory), and 256th (compensatory) overall
The New York Giants could use multiple receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft in order to continue building around rising second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. The Giants' offense needs all the help it could get as its leading receiver in 2019 finished with a mere 740 yards, so selecting a receiver early on and Cleveland with one of their many late picks would make sense on its own.
But, there's another reason why New York would make sense for Cleveland. His special teams prowess should stand out to the Giants' new head coach, former New England Patriots special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach Joe Judge. Not often will you find an NFL head coach that got the bump right after primarily serving as a special teams coordinator.
As Judge looks to implement his philosophies across New York's roster, Cleveland seems like a perfect match. Late round picks often have to become willing special teams contributors to make a roster, and Cleveland would have no issue with that role.