For the longest time, it was a given there would be multiple Tennessee players taken in the NFL draft. There was a Tennessee player drafted in every single draft from 1964-2014.
Lately, though, that hasn’t been the case. Tennessee was left out of the 2015, ’16, or ’19 drafts. Despite the lack of recent success, there will likely be a couple of former Vols taken in the 2020 NFL draft.
We take a look at the best possible landing spots for former Vols in the draft.
Darrell Taylor, EDGE
Taylor is probably the best bet to get drafted this year.
Behind quarterback, an edge rusher is one of the most sought after positions in the NFL. According to most services, Taylor is a fringe top-10 edge rusher in this draft.
He chose to sit out of drills at the NFL Combine last month following surgery in January for a stress fracture in his leg. Since Tennessee’s pro day never transpired, NFL teams will have to rely on Taylor’s game tape for their info.
Fortunately, that’s not a bad thing. Taylor followed up an eight sack junior season with an 8.5 sack season this year. The latter was good for second best in the SEC.
According to scouts, he has the traits and abilities to be a decent backup in the NFL with the potential to push for a starting position. Expect Taylor to go either late night two or earlier day three to a team that needs depth off the edge.
Potential Rounds: 3rd or 4th
Potential Teams: Ravens, Texans
Jauan Jennings, WR
Let’s call a spade a spade on this one: Jauan Jennings is an enigma.
He carved out his legacy at Tennessee as a fan favorite and clutch moment superstar. He has proven himself to be a fantastic route runner and absolute bully when he has the ball in his hands, yet questions about his quickness and speed still linger after a rough showing at the NFL Combine.
Where Taylor will have to rely on his game tape, Jennings probably prefers it that way.
Jennings finished his career at Tennessee fourth in program history in receiving yards (2,153) and fifth in receptions and touchdown receptions (146 and 18). Throw in the fact that he is one of the most versatile players in this draft, and Jennings could go anywhere between the 3rd and 7th rounds.
Anquan Boldin, Jerry Rice, and Larry Fitzgerald have all been mentioned as other receivers that posted slow 40 times. Yet, they still have great NFL careers.
The appropriate comparison to a current NFL player may be Mohamed Sanu, who ran a similar 40 time and has a history of versatility. Sanu is about to go into his ninth season in the league, so there is a chance for Jennings to carve out some playing time.
Either way, Jim Nagy seems to believe in him.
Don’t care about @Vol_Football WR Jauan Jennings’ 40 time. Or any other Combine numbers for that matter. There’s always outliers and Jennings is an outlier. It’ll be fun watching how many WRs drafted ahead of him that he out-plays at the next level.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/39BknG4n3z
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 13, 2020
Jennings is ranked as around the 20th best receiver in one of the deepest receiving draft classes ever, so look for him to go some time day three to a team in need of slot receiver and special teams help.
Potential Rounds: 5th or 6th
Potential Teams: Patriots, Jets
Marquez Callaway, WR
Jennings and Callaway are in polar opposite situations right now. Where there are questions about Jennings’ explosiveness, Callaway put himself on the map with a strong Combine performance (126-inch broad jump, 38 inch vertical, 4.55 40-yard dash).
Jennings will probably cut his teeth as a slot receiver running quick routes and getting the ball into his hands early. Callaway will likely earn a living as a deep threat/red-zone target with a strong ability to high point the ball.
Callaway is top-20 in program history in receiving yards with 1,646. He will also bring value as a special teams weapon to whoever drafts him. His 13.6 yards per punt return and three punt return touchdowns are fourth and second in program history, respectively.
Again, this is one of the strongest wide receiver classes ever. But Callaway should still be drafted, albeit towards the end of the draft.
Potential Rounds: 6th or 7th
Potential Teams: Patriots, Colts
Daniel Bituli, LB
There is a chance that Bituli doesn’t get drafted.
He was pretty average at the Combine and has average measurements. On the other hand, he was very, very good at Tennessee for a long time, culminating in a second-team All-SEC season his senior year.
He has fantastic game tape with a history of leadership, and there’s a possibility he is fighting for a roster spot by the time preseason rolls around.
Potential Round: 7th
Potential Teams: Broncos, Packers
Dominick Wood-Anderson, TE
Wood-Anderson is a long shot to be drafted. He needed a strong Combine showing to make up for a notable lack of college statistics.
It didn’t happen.
However, he was strong in the jump tests, but his 40-time (4.92 seconds) was more comparable to a lineman than a tight end.
Above all, Wood-Anderson is a good, not a great, blocker. He is a decent route runner with sure hands. With his size, he may be able to backdoor into a roster spot.
In other words, he’ll just need to impress during training camp, likely as a free agent pick up.
Potential Round: 7th or Undrafted FA
Potential Teams: Giants, Bengals
Nigel Warrior, S
The only player on this list that wasn’t invited to the Combine.
Warrior certainly could have used the Tennessee Pro Day to show off his physical capabilities. But as it stands, he didn’t have the chance. Instead, he’ll have to hope his steady progression at Tennessee that culminated in an All-SEC senior year will be enough.
Potential Round: 7th or Undrafted FA
Potential Teams: Eagles, 49ers
In conclusion, this should be a pretty good draft for former Vols. Just don’t get your hopes up to see any splashes in the first round.