We’re less than two weeks away from hearing a Tennessee player’s name called in the NFL Draft for the first time in three years. Derek Barnett should be a first round selection and could even sneak his way into the Top 10, the first of what should be six Vols coming off the board over three days next weekend.
At a school where only four numbers have ever been retired for on-field accomplishments and two of them were defensive ends, Barnett is already in elite company by owning the school sack record. If he is indeed selected in the Top 10, he’ll surpass Doug Atkins as the highest selected defensive end in school history.
That got us thinking: what would the All-Vol NFL Draft team look like, putting the highest drafted players at each position in a starting 22? Where a player is drafted is certainly an indicator (and a less biased one) of the quality of their college career; maybe this would be an interesting way to view who the best players in school history are?
Glad you asked:
All-Vol NFL Draft Team
A couple of observations:
- Wide Receiver U isn’t led by the guys you might expect. Robert Meachem, Donte Stallworth, Marcus Nash, and Willie Gault were all first round picks and all probably rate higher as household names, especially among younger fans. And Carl Pickens, who with two Pro Bowls and two second team All-Pro selections is probably the best Vol NFL wide receiver, was an early second round pick. But it’s Hancock, Duncan, and Harper who were the highest Vol receivers taken. Hancock is 10th all-time in yardage and Harper was a big part of Tennessee’s back-to-back SEC Championships in 1989 and 1990.
- The Vols have historically struggled to produce great offensive guards. Other than tight end, it’s the only position where you have to go outside the first round to find the highest drafted Vol. And since Jason Witten is the highest rated tight end, I think that position gets a pass.
- What school has a better pair of defensive ends than Reggie White and Doug Atkins? White was technically a first round selection in the supplemental draft, but I’ve included him here because that ‘84 supplemental draft in the USFL era also included Steve Young and Gary Zimmerman at the top. And, you know, it’s Reggie White. If you exclude him then Shaun Ellis gets the honors at #12 in the first round, but Barnett could get in the thick of that conversation next week.
- Players who just missed this list: Heath Shuler at #3 at quarterback, Jamal Lewis at #5 at running back, Albert Haynesworth at #15 at defensive tackle, and Dale Carter at #20 in the defensive backfield were all among the strongest at their positions in school history but were narrowly edged out.
What stands out the most to you on this list?