This draft weekend is set to be another quiet one for Tennessee football. After seeing three players drafted last season, the Vols may be lucky to have one name called this weekend in Nashville. Jeremy Pruitt is working on turning that around, but the lack of NFL talent on last year’s roster should paint a picture of how far he has to go.
Here are the three names most likely to be called sometime on Saturday afternoon.
DL Kyle Phillips
The former five-star defensive end easily stands as Tennessee’s best shot to have a player drafted this weekend in Nashville. Phillips posted his best season in Knoxville in 2018, putting up five sacks to go along with 56 total tackles. He registered eight tackles for loss during the year.
At 6-4, 273 pounds, Phillips was undersized while playing inside for Jeremy Pruitt’s year one defense. His more natural fit may be on the outside as a rotational pass rusher for 4-3 base team. He went through his pro day drills at 277 pounds, so it will be interesting to see how NFL teams project him going forward.
Phillips was invited to the East/West Shrine Bowl in January.
DT Shy Tuttle
Another former five-star recruit, Tuttle was finally able to put a full season together in 2018. Battling injuries throughout his career, Tuttle’s time in Knoxville never was never able to live up to his potential. He finished the season with 33 tackles, including 2.5 for loss in 2018.
The 6-3 defensive lineman weighed 300 pounds during the season last year, but has since trimmed to 290. Tuttle was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl back in January.
LB Quart’e Sapp
One of the more surprising entries in the 2019 NFL Draft, Sapp opted to forgo his final season of eligibility after just one season in Jeremy Pruitt’s new defensive system. Sapp made strides in the spring of 2018 and was a standout during the Orange and White Game.
However, he battled injuries and a little bit of drama in the fall, never really settling into a firm role in the defense. The former four-star prospect broke out in 2017, totaling 78 tackles. As mentioned, he was unable to back that up in 2018, bouncing in and out of the lineup.
Still, Sapp’s ability to move and his burst may be appealing enough for teams to take a chance on him late as a special teams player and developmental project. More than likely, Sapp will find a home on Saturday afternoon after the draft concludes.
Other names who should find opportunities as UDFAs
Edge Jonathan Kongbo: Underachieving under Butch Jones, Kongbo had a chance to settle into a more natural edge position under Jeremy Pruitt. Unfortunately for him, that chance was cut short with an ACL injury against Auburn. He should have a shot to show something in training camp this fall, especially considering his prototypical 6-5, 250 pound frame.
There’s been quite a bit of CFL talk around Kongbo as well.
SAF Micah Abernathy: The 30 game starter for Tennessee put up impressive pro-day numbers, running the 40 yard dash in 4.45 seconds and posting a three-cone time of 6.6 seconds. Though those numbers may be inflated a touch, his athletic ability and experience should at least earn him a shot.
QB Keller Chryst: Many thought Chryst was coming to Tennessee as the starter in 2018, but that didn’t happen. The 6-5, 240 pound passer didn’t impress in limited action in 2018, throwing three touchdowns against two interceptions in just 51 attempts. However, he may get a shot as a camp arm.
DT Alexis Johnson: It took Johnson some time to find his way at Tennessee, but he finally did so during 2018. The redshirt senior made 51 tackles and six tackles for loss in his final season in Knoxville. At 6-3, 314 pounds, Johnson has a shot to make it in the league as a run stuffer.