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ESPN: Darnell Wright, Jalin Hyatt could be drafted higher than people think

More positive buzz for Tennessee prospects.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL Draft is now just a few weeks away, and the rumor mill is certainly churning. Tennessee could have as many as three players come off of the board in the first round, depending on how teams view Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt. Steady right tackle Darnell Wright has been leading the way as a projected top 20 overall selection.

Wright, by all accounts, has had a fantastic draft process. He started out at the Senior Bowl, where he was named a top performer of the week. That has continued through the NFL Combine, Pro Day and apparently in individual meetings with teams.

According to ESPN’s Jordan Reid, Wright could end up going even higher.

If there’s one player who has aced the pre-draft process, it’s Wright. He displayed an improved skill set at the Senior Bowl and then stood out at the combine. And now it seems Wright could be selected in the early teens. At 6-foot-5 and 333 pounds, he has experience at both guard and tackle, and many teams feel like he can play on either the right or left side. A run on offensive tackles could start as early as No. 7 overall with the Las Vegas Raiders, and Wright might be in the early stages of that run, perhaps inside the top 15.

The former five-star prospect has experience on both the left and right side, and really had a great senior season. He didn’t allow a single sack in 2022, which sent him flying up draft boards over the course of the fall.

Jalin Hyatt was also named by ESPN as a potential surprise. Hyatt has been slotted in somewhere in that 25-40 range by most, despite his monster season that saw him win the Biletnikoff Award. Concerns over his thin frame and a spread offense with a limited route tree have taken him into the second round range, but Matt Miller believes he could still go top 25.

Hyatt has been a top-32 player for me since the 2022 season ended, but that’s more of an outlier than a consensus take. I’m standing firm, though — and I think Hyatt could be a top-25 selection. Wide receivers with high-end speed to stretch the field seemingly always rise on draft day, and Hyatt’s production in the SEC should turn heads once coaches get involved in the process of stacking team boards. Hyatt averaged 18.9 yards per reception last year and scored 15 touchdowns en route to a Biletnikoff Award trophy for the nation’s best receiver. He also couldn’t be stopped by Nick Saban’s Alabama defense; multiple scouts are still talking about his six catches for 207 yards and five touchdowns against the Crimson Tide.

Hyatt was a popular pick early in the process for the Giants at pick 25. Beyond that, the Texans at the top of round two make a lot of sense.

Elsewhere, the Hendon Hooker steam has continued to pick up, with the consensus now seeming to believe that he’ll be a first round pick. Byron Young is slotted in somewhere on day two, while Cedric Tillman has been projected as a third rounder.

The NFL Draft is set to begin on April 27th.