clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looking ahead at Tennessee’s 2023 NFL Draft Prospects

Tennessee should build on their NFL Draft success next season.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a decade of inconsistent production in the NFL Draft, Tennessee produced five picks over the weekend in Las Vegas. Alontae Taylor, Velus Jones Jr., Matthew Butler, Cade Mays and Theo Jackson each found their new professional homes this weekend, all capitalizing on their one season playing under Josh Heupel’s staff.

Now Heupel has his next group ready to do the same. The Volunteers return plenty of upperclassmen talent, which should allow them to take another step forward on the field this fall.

One year out from the 2023 NFL Draft, here are another five Tennessee prospects that could hear their names called next year.

WR Cedric Tillman (Senior)

It was Tillman’s turn in 2021 after Josh Palmer went to the league, and he didn’t disappoint. The former overlooked recruit turned into one of the SEC’s best, becoming Tennessee’s first 1,000 yard receiver since 2012. Tillman could have left following this season, but his return could really boost his stock for 2023. He produced his best tape against Alabama and Georgia, and has the NFL’s full attention as a senior.

QB Hendon Hooker (Super Senior)

Heupel, Joey Halzle and Alex Golesh really worked their magic here quickly with Hooker. The Virginia Tech transfer didn’t even commit to this coaching staff, but it turned into quite the match in 2021. Hooker took the job and never looked back after an injury to Joe Milton, turning in one of the best seasons Tennessee fans have ever seen at the quarterback position.

Hooker also could have left and joined a weak quarterback class to be a day three pick, but he chose to come back to Knoxville and set his sights higher. CJ Stroud and Bryce Young have a firm grip on the top two spots heading into 2023, but Hooker is a threat to become that next man in the class.

Edge Byron Young (Senior)

Now for a little projection.

Young finished up his first season at Tennessee with 5.5 sacks, becoming a starter at a big time position of need for the Volunteers. It took him a few weeks to settle in, but he eventually hit his stride mid-season. Young registered a sack against Alabama, Vanderbilt and Georgia, then got home twice against Kentucky. You could feel the light bulb starting to come on for Young, who was also productive at the JUCO level.

Now a senior, Young has a chance to be a late-bloomer. The tools and athleticism are there, paired with a 6-3, 245 pound frame. I’m looking for Young to make some noise in 2022.

LT Darnell Wright (Senior)

The former five-star recruit has been pretty steady during his career at Tennessee, playing a few different roles for the Volunteers. He started five games as a true freshman at right tackle, while also spending some time at guard. He kicked back out to right tackle in 2020, before settling in at left tackle in 2021.

Now a senior, Wright has a chance to add another year of steady tape to his resume and become a 2023 draft pick if he chooses to leave.

OG Jerome Carvin (Super Senior)

Carvin has been a lifesaver for Tennessee over the past four seasons. He’s been a consistent starter at guard, while also spending time as a fill-in at center when needed. His veteran presence returning in 2022 is absolutely huge for the Volunteers, which finished with a top 15 mark in rushing offense last season. Carvin should find himself with an NFL opportunity at this time next year.

Other options: LB Jeremy Banks, S Jaylen McCollough, S Tre Flowers, TE Jacob Warren, DL LaTrell Bumphus