After missing out on the draft for two consecutive years, the Tennessee Vols came roaring back during the 2017 NFL Draft with six players taken overall. Highlighted by first-rounder Derek Barnett, it was a bittersweet moment for fans to watch some of their favorite players move on into the next phase of the careers.
This year’s draft - while there won’t be as many picks - should still feature a few Vols finding new homes in certain NFL cities. Maybe they’ll get lucky like Josh Dobbs and Cam Sutton and play on the same team. Regardless, it is an exciting time for them as VFLs everywhere wait in anticipation to see where the latest crop of players will go.
Rashaan Gaulden, DB, JR
Gaulden opted not to stick around for his final year of eligibility in order to take advantage of the draft. The most recent victim of the Mandela Effect, Gaulden is widely known for his double-bird display against Alabama after Daniel Bituli intercepted a pass for a 97-yard touchdown back in October.
But that’s not all Gaulden can do. Actually, it’s far from it.
Gaulden mainly played nickelback at Tennessee, but he can also play safety or corner. He’s more of a physical back evidenced by his 65 tackles and three forced fumbles last season.
Mock drafts have him going as high as the third round and as low as the sixth. Predicting where players will go is nearly impossible, but it seems like Gaulden could find his new team somewhere in the fourth round. He’s not as athletic as Sutton, but his versatility makes up for that.
Prediction: Fourth Round, No. 113 Overall (Denver Broncos)
John Kelly, RB, JR
Gaulden was Tennessee’s best defensive player and Kelly was their best offensive player. It’s a shame to watch both of them go early, but that’s just part of the deal.
Kelly, as we all know, is a stud. He is one of the most violent runners to ever grace Neyland and he can catch and pass block as well. His speed is also very deceptive. When he finds room to run, he can flat-out torch defenders on the field. Check out this run against Tennessee Tech where he just leaves everyone in the dust.
It’s looking like the fourth round will be Kelly’s destination as well, although he could go as high as the third round. This year's depth at running back will most likely push him into the fourth or fifth round, however.
Prediction: Fourth Round, No. 126 Overall (Atlanta Falcons)
Kahlil McKenzie, DT, JR
Arguably the most disappointing recruit to come to Tennessee in over a decade, McKenzie made the surprising decision to declare for the draft early in the offseason.
Injuries and a lack of production kept McKenzie from being the difference-maker the Vols thought they had when they lured the former five-star recruit out from California.
McKenzie has all of the physical tools to succeed at the next level, but the question is can he stay healthy and put it all together?
At this point, there are more questions with answers than McKenzie and that usually doesn’t bode well for early enrollees.
Prediction: Sixth Round, No. 202 Overall (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Ethan Wolf, TE, SR - Wolf was a pretty damn good tight end, but was never used correctly. He had concentration issues at times, but he should find himself on someone’s practice squad come the start of the 2018 season.
Trevor Daniel, P, SR - Man, this one will hurt more than fans think. Daniel was one of the best punters in the country during his time at UT. He has an incredible leg, but isn’t the most accurate punter. That can obviously improve with more practice. Daniel may go undrafted, but he will find his way onto a NFL roster at some point.
Evan Berry, S/KR, SR - A tough break for a player that was extremely valuable to the Vols. Injuries derailed Berry’s 2017 season and before that he was the best returner in the SEC. It will be tough for him to find a roster spot with all of the changes to the return game in today’s NFL.
Kendall Vickers, DT, SR - Unfortunately for Vickers he doesn’t have the skill set to compete in the NFL. He has the motor and the work ethic, but he won’t find an NFL home this year.
Jashon Robertson, OL, SR - Robertson’s career was promising early on, but he faded down the stretch. With the depth on the offensive line in the draft, Robertson will consider himself lucky if he’s even signed as an undrafted free agent.
Brett Kendrick, OL, SR - Kendrick was valuable and versatile for the Vols, but that won’t be enough to land him a roster spot after the draft.