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Mel Kiper Jr. 2024 NFL Draft Big Board: Three Volunteers make the cut

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Georgia at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s shaping up to be a lighter year on the NFL Draft front for Tennessee, but ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. still has three Volunteers on his Big Board to kickoff draft season. Joe Milton, Jaylen Wright and McCallan Castles all appeared in Kiper’s prospect positional rankings, which were published this week.

Here’s a look at where each checked in.

QB9: Joe Milton

Milton seems like he’s going to be a late-round project at this point. The senior quarterback was up and down for Tennessee this season, but failed to backup the big-time production that Hendon Hooker put up in 2022. It’s never been a question of physical talent with Milton — he’s got the strongest arm in the class by far. But he hasn’t been able to put the accuracy and processing together like everyone had hoped. The 6-5, 230 pound frame with elite arm strength will still generate some pro interest, however.

RB6: Jaylen Wright

This is about as high of a ranking you’ll see for Wright, who has a lot to work with looking ahead to the next level. The former three-star prospect developed in Knoxville, going from a track-star type to a legitimate pro prospect. Wright is explosive, left his fumbling issues behind, and led the Tennessee backfield in 2023. The 5-10, 211 pound running back averaged 7.4 yards per carry in his final season with the Volunteers.

FB8: McCallan Castles

Castles has been on the NFL’s radar since before he arrived in Knoxville. The do-it-all H-back didn’t rack up yard in Josh Heupel’s offense, but he was heavily involved in the blocking scheme and score five touchdowns on the year. A 6-5, 252 pound frame won’t hurt his pro prospects as a potential late round pick or undrafted free agent.

Tennessee had four names called on night two of the 2023 NFL Draft — Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt, Cedric Tillman and Byron Young. That in addition to right tackle Darnell Wright going 10th overall to the Chicago Bears. Tennessee won’t have that kind of volume this year, and Jaylen Wright looks like the prospect with the chance to go the highest. We’ll revisit that thought after next week’s senior bowl

Receiver Ramel Keyton, tight end Jacob Warren, returner Dee Williams, cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally and linebacker Aaron Beasley all also have a chance to hear their name called this spring.