Tennessee in the NFL Draft - Top 10 Selections

Tomorrow night, Eric Berry and Dan Williams have a chance to join an elite group at the University of Tennessee:  only 12 Vols have ever been taken in the Top 10 picks of the NFL Draft.  Berry should be a lock to go in the first ten picks, while Williams has been rapidly moving up the board and will at least get a look from a couple of teams picking in the 6-10 spots.

Here's a look at the dozen players from Tennessee that have gone in the first ten picks of the draft - and with a couple of notable exceptions, when teams picked guys from Knoxville in the Top 10, they got their money's worth:

RB George Cafego - #1 in 1940, Chicago Cardinals

"Bad News" was Tennessee's first ever first round draft pick, and he came off the board first in 1940.  A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Cafego's pro career was cut short by World War II.  He would later play in Brooklyn, Washington, and Boston before his career ended in 1945.  Sign of the times:  Cafego played quarterback and running back, while also handling punting duties.

DB Bert Rechichar - #10 in 1952, Cleveland Browns

A member of the Vols' 1951 National Championship team, Rechichar had his greatest success with the Baltimore Colts from 1953-59.  He made the Pro Bowl three consecutive years from '55-'57, and had 30 interceptions in his first six years in the league.  And like Cafego, Rechichar also handled special teams duties:  he set the NFL record for longest field goal with a 56 yarder in 1953, a mark that would stand until Tom Dempsey's 63 yarder in 1970.

OG Steve DeLong - #6 in 1965, Chicago Bears

DeLong was taken sixth by the Bears, but elected to sign with the San Diego Chargers of the AFL.  DeLong played guard at Tennessee, where he was a two time All-American and won the 1964 Outland Trophy.  In professional football, DeLong played defensive end and tackle, and was named an AFL All-Star in 1969.   

C Bob Johnson - #2 in 1968, Cincinnati Bengals

Another College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Johnson has the unique distinction of being the very first Cincinnati Bengal:  he was the first player they picked in their inaugural year, and was the last of the original Bengals to retire.  The '68 Draft featured NFL and AFL teams rotating picks, and the Bengals would join the NFL in the merger in 1970; Johnson played until 1979.  He was an AFL All-Star in his rookie season, and as the first Bengal he had his #54 retired by the franchise, making him the only Bengal to ever receive that honor.

DB Terry McDaniel - #9 in 1988, Los Angeles Raiders

After a 20 year absence (which may have been less had Reggie White not signed with the USFL), the Vols returned to the top ten with Terry McDaniel, who had a stellar career with LA/Oakland Raiders.  McDaniel made the Pro Bowl every year from 1992-96, and finished his career with 35 interceptions.  He ran five of those back for touchdowns while with the Raiders, still a franchise record, and McDaniel is third all-time on the Raiders' career INT list.   

OT Charles McRae - #7 in 1991, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The first six picks of the 1991 NFL Draft were defensive players, making McRae the first offensive player taken in the draft.  He was an All-SEC lineman in Knoxville, and started 38 games at right tackle for the Bucs during his NFL career.  And as you'll see, the '91 Draft was very good to the Vols...

OT Antone Davis - #8 in 1991, Philadelphia Eagles

When Vol fans speak well of Andy Kelly and Chuck Webb, we should remember these guys too:  the bookends of the Vol offensive line became the first two offensive players taken in the '91 Draft, back-to-back at 7 and 8.  Davis played five seasons in Philadelphia before finishing his career in Atlanta.  It should also be noted that WR Alvin Harper was taken 12th in the '91 Draft, making it the best first round the Vols have ever had.

QB Heath Shuler - #3 in 1994, Washington Redskins

Ouch.  The Heisman runner-up left Knoxville early to enter the NFL Draft in 1994 - at the time, we all wished he would've stayed for his senior year, but Shuler's departure started the chain of events that led to four years of Peyton Manning and a National Championship in 1998.  Before many East Tennesseans became Colts fans, they were primed to become Redskins fans (especially with the Titans still in Houston in 1994).  But Shuler never found his way in the NFL, getting in trouble when the gutsy throws he made in college became bad decisions in the NFL.  We looked back at Shuler's story on the 15th anniversary of his selection last year.

QB Peyton Manning - #1 in 1998, Indianapolis Colts

Less ouch.  Look, you know this guy, and you know what he's done.  This is just always the part where I like to point out that Manning and Ryan Leaf were once mentioned in the same breath (though even this article suggests that there was really no comparison).  The other #1 overall picks of the 1990s?  Jeff George, Russell Maryland, Steve Emtman, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Wilkinson, Ki-Jana Carter, Keyshawn Johnson, Orlando Pace, Tim Couch.  You can count the Pro Bowlers on one hand.  Good call, Indy.

RB Jamal Lewis - #5 in 2000, Baltimore Ravens

In a decade filled with lots of NFL RBs that made fantasy owners very happy, is it possible that Jamal Lewis is underrated?  Only LaDainian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James ran for more yards in the last decade than Lewis did; those three all had more than 10,000 rushing yards in the last ten years.  Lewis won a Super Bowl in his rookie year, running for more than 100 yards in Baltimore's win.  In 2003, Lewis put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history:  2,066 yards, second all-time, with 14 TDs and 5.3 ypc.  He also ran for 295 yards in a game against Cleveland that year, at the time the all-time NFL record (later broken by Adrian Peterson by one yard).  Lewis broke 1,000 yards in seven seasons, and ran with an authority that no other back possessed.  This guy was special.

DT John Henderson - #9 in 2002, Jacksonville Jaguars

Giving the 1991 Draft a run for its money is 2002, where Henderson, Donte' Stallworth, and Al Haynesworth went 9-13-15 in the first round.  The 2000 Outland Trophy winner has almost 400 tackles in his NFL career, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2004 and 2006.  Playing next to Haynesworth and Will Overstreet in Knoxville, he was a member of the Vols' best defensive line in school history in 2001. 

LB Jerod Mayo - #10 in 2008, New England Patriots

The fastest rising Vol in Draft history, Mayo found his way into the Top 10 on Draft Day, and he did not disappoint:  he had 128 tackles as a rookie, and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; six other defensive players were drafted before he was.  Mayo was banged up last season, and still finished with more than 100 tackles for a second straight year.

Will Berry and Williams join this class?  The NFL Draft starts Thursday night, 7:30 PM EDT on ESPN. 

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