The Tennessee Volunteers are coming off of their best season in over 20 years, capping things off with an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. Josh Heupel has quickly turned everything around in Knoxville, which, in turn, means Tennessee will be sending some talent to the professional ranks this offseason.
Tennessee has sent plenty of players to the NFL Draft in recent years, but frankly it’s been a while since anyone had first round hype around them. You’ve got to go all the way back to 2017 to find the last first round pick, which was Derek Barnett going to the Eagles. Before that? It was Juwan James in 2024 going to the Dolphins.
That could change this year. Electrifying receiver Jalin Hyatt declared, opting to turn pro after his junior season. The Biletnikoff Award winner realized his full potential in year three, torching defenses all season long to help power Heupel’s up-tempo attack.
Steady right tackle Darnell Wright also declared, looking to cash in off a really strong senior season. Edge rusher Byron Young will join him, more than likely set to become a day two pick. Hendon Hooker and Cedric Tillman are also headed to the draft, but unfortunately their projections are a little more cloudy due to injuries.
For Hyatt and Wright — at least for now — they have a shot of going on the first night of the draft. Here are a couple of projections.
DraftWire: RD1, 25th overall
CBS Sports: RD1, 23rd overall
DraftWire: RD1, 30th overall
Pro Football Network: RD1, 28th overall
It’s very early on in the process, and things change quite a bit in the wait until late April. However, Wright’s tape was fantastic this year, and Hyatt might actually blow up the NFL Combine. We’ve seen speed push guys up the board before in the past, giving teams a trait that they can’t teach.
Plenty of mock drafts don’t have Wright or Hyatt going in the first round, but again, we’re very early in the process. I’m going to guess that after the Combine in February, some of these projections warm up a bit more to Hyatt.
The NFL Draft is set for April Thursday, April 27th and will run through Saturday, April 29th.