Thursday night came and went for former Vols, the first time no Tennessee player was selected in the first round since 2005. But tonight's second and third rounds could get tight end Luke Stocker on the board as the first Vol taken in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph is the consensus number one tight end in the draft; once he comes off the board, Stocker Watch begins. SB Nation's Round Two Mock Draft has that happening almost immediately, at #34 to Buffalo. According to most of the "experts", there are a number of guys bunched together in the conversation for the next best tight end, including Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks, Nevada's Virgil Green, D.J. Williams from Arkansas and many others. But it's a group Stocker is in - he's listed as the fourth best tight end from ESPN.com, and the 59th best available player on the board heading into tonight.
Stocker probably won't go in Round Two, but Round Three certainly appears to be a possibility. You'd think tight end is one of those tricky position-of-need spots, where a good player can fall much deeper than he should because teams don't value tight ends as much as other spots. But in last year's draft, twenty tight ends were taken; more tight ends were picked than quarterbacks, running backs, safeties, centers, and guards.
Stocker just needs one team to evaluate him higher than the other guys in that next tight end group, or a handful of teams who are looking that direction in Round Three if some of the others come off the board. Hopefully tonight is his night.