It's not a shock to anyone that we're going to be waiting a while for the first Vol to get called during the 2011 NFL Draft. The potential draft class are guys you'd expect: Denarius Moore, LaMarcus Thompson, Luke Stocker, Kevin Cooper, Gerald Jones, Nick Reveiz - with Chris Walker (projected as an OLB instead of on the line) and Jarrod Shaw being the total sum of potential Vols. Doing a quick search of the first two rounds of the SBNation Mock Draft reveals something that isn't that surprising; there aren't any Vols projected to go in the top two rounds. By Sports Illustrated's overall ratings, Moore and Stocker are the only guys who might sniff the first four rounds; everyone else is late-round material. (As far as ESPN goes, Todd McShay knows as much about the draft process as I do, near as I can tell. Let's just leave it at that.)
None of this comes as a major surprise: this wasn't a loaded senior class, and there's a reason it was Year Zero for the Vols. This crew was critical to Tennessee's 6-6-1* season, and they were some of the critical links back to a simpler time. (Ah, 2007.) Still, nobody among that group save possibly Moore was a true national star. Sure, Stocker was one of the best tight ends in the nation, but aside from Kyle Rudolph and DJ Williams, can you recall a star-level TE who's going pro (without having to look it up)? Stocker is unfortunate enough to be good at a position that can afford to be deep. Reveiz was a great story who was never going to get past the 6th round at his best because he's unfortunate enough to be only a couple of inches taller than I am.
I'm not as into the NFL as ...well, most of America. Saturdays I obsess over; y'all know this as well as anyone. For me, the draft is when it hits home: these guys won't be wearing orange anymore. (Unless they're drafted by the Bucs, or the Bengals, or . . . you know what this comparison isn't quite working out how I was hoping for, so let's just move on.) I watched these guys grow up, improve, and the least that could happen is to see the stars of the team get called down to the podium, hold up a jersey (really, any jersey is okay initially) and get a picture taken. Instead, I'll get seventeen talking heads debating how Nick Fairley will translate to the NFL while Denarius Moore's name flashes on a three-deep ticker. Luke Stocker's name will slide by as six guys are breaking down frame-by-frame video of Cameron Newton's throwing motion. They'll get phone calls, and if they're lucky they'll get screen captures.
It's the reality we have to deal with this year, though. It won't always be like this, but for now, we'll make do.