The Denver Broncos have signed their fair share of USFL and XFL players over the past two seasons, so it comes as no surprise to see them sign another. This time they are expected to sign defensive lineman Dondrea Tillman after a workout earlier this week. 

Tillman is a three-time champion with the Stallions finally getting a shot at playing in the NFL. With the Broncos running a base 3-4 defense Tillman will likely play outside linebacker for the Broncos this season. Standing 6’3 247 pounds he is a perfect fit for this scheme. 

Tillman was moved all over the defense for Birmingham in 2024 seeing snaps at every position across the defensive line, and all four linebacker positions. His versatility will be extremely valuable for the Broncos. The Broncos currently have 8 outside linebackers, and 8 inside linebackers. Just in the last month alone, they added six players at linebacker (counting Tillman). 

He adds value as a special teams contributor as well lining up on kick return, punt return, and field goal block unit. He could easily be used on punt block/return, field goal kicking unit, as well as kickoff and punt coverage. In the right scenario, Tillman could be more valuable on special teams than he is on defense. 

Top Rated Edge Rusher

Casual fans will see names like Breeland Speaks, and Taco Charlton and assume they sat atop the pass rush rankings this season, however they would be wrong. It was none other than Dondrea Tillman who graded at a 93.5 overall that took that title. Ironically fellow Stallions Jonathan Garvin and Charlton both made the top ten as well. Garvin finished second, Charlton 7th. 

The impressive part about this ranking is Tillman played more snaps than all but one other player in the top 15. Playing 506 snaps this season he graded out better than some players he played nearly five times more snaps than others. The thing is this is nothing new for Tillman. His defensive grade has gotten better every season he has played. From 89.8 in 2022 while playing 533 snaps to 90.1 playing 542 snaps, and finally 93.5 playing 506 snaps. 

Playing on over 1,500 defensive snaps Tillman has produced 162 pressures, including 113 hurries, 34 hits, and 15 sacks. He has also batted down 16 passes, a very underrated contribution from any pass rusher. Despite playing more than just about any other UFL player over the past three seasons he missed just 7 tackles. His most impressive stat might be the fact that he hasn’t logged a single penalty since 2022 when he had 2. 

College Career

Tillman was a two-sport athlete leaving high school when he committed to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Coming in with NFL size as a freshman (6’4 260lbs) he would find playing time immediately. After one season as primarily a role player, he seized a starting job and never looked back. Playing in 11 games as a freshman he produced 20 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. 

Over the next three seasons, Tillman played in 37 games collecting a litany of big plays along the way. This included 39.5 tackles for a loss, 26.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 10 pass deflections, 7 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries, and 3 defensive touchdowns. 

Diamond in the Rough

To make a long story short, Tillman is a fundamentally sound player known for limiting mistakes in his game while maximizing his impact on a game. He is versatile, intelligent, and understands special teams could be the difference between having a cup of coffee in Denver or sticking on the roster long-term. With so many players competing at linebacker it likely won’t be his defensive prowess that makes the difference but his contributions on special teams, and his positional versatility. 

If you are a fan of the UFL check out my YouTube channel where we have weekly UFL coverage. 

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Sam Just

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