Four Tennessee Players Projected As First or Second Round Draft Pick

Tennessee Combine Jalin Hyatt Hendon Hooker

Tennessee Combine Jalin Hyatt Hendon HookerVFLs Jalin Hyatt (left) and Hendon Hooker (right) at the NFL Combine. Photo via Tennessee Athletics (@Vol_Football).

Four former Tennessee players have been projected as a first or second round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft at the end of April.

According to ESPN, NFL draft analyst Todd McShay is projecting two first-round selections and two second-round selections from the Vols.

McShay has offensive tackle Darnell Wright as the first former Tennessee player off the board at No. 19 to the New England Patriots. The Patriots have the No. 14 pick in the draft but moved down to 19 in this hypothetical outcome drawn up by McShay.

The New England Patriots continue to be a talked-about landing spot for Wright as more and more teams potentially enter the hunt for the quarterback marketplace. There’s no question that the Patriots could slide around in that 14-20 range and still very likely come away with their guy – if that’s what Robert Kraft and the organization want to do.

The next Tennessee player off the board is quarterback Hendon Hooker at No. 23 to the Minnesota Vikings.

“The Vikings have quietly been putting in some work on this QB class,” McShay wrote for ESPN. “Despite the team’s 13-win season, Kirk Cousins was just 23rd in QBR at 49.9. Plus, he’s turning 35 this summer and will be entering the final year of his deal. Sitting behind Cousins for a year to learn the pro game and fully recover from a torn ACL could be the perfect setup for Hooker, who led the nation in QBR last season before the injury (89.5).”

ESPN expert and former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum made headlines last week by selecting Hooker to go at No. 5 overall to the Seattle Seahawks in his most recent mock draft. While McShay is still high on the former Tennessee superstar, he just isn’t projecting him as a Top 10 pick.

“Hooker is accurate to every level of the field but really thrives throwing deep,” McShay wrote. “Some scouts might be wary of drafting a 25-year-old QB, but he has the talent to lead an NFL offense. I’ve talked to folks with a few teams that even have Hooker above Levis on their internal boards. He has interviewed really well this spring, and the tape is phenomenal.”

More from RTI: NFC South Team Reportedly Flying in Hendon Hooker for Pre-Draft Visit

While many have projected Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt to the Giants at No. 25, and despite Hyatt being hosted by Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, McShay doesn’t believe Hyatt will end up at either NFC East team when it’s said and done.

Todd McShay has Jalin Hyatt going as one of the top second-round selections, being taken by the Houston Texans with the No. 33 overall pick. Hyatt is McShay’s fifth receiver off the board behind Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Titans No. 11), Zay Flowers (Seahawks No. 20), Quentin Johnston (Ravens No. 22), and Jordan Addison (Bills No. 27).

The final second-round player that McShay has from Tennessee is one that quite often bounces around between one of the first three rounds in terms of projections. Ask the right guy on the right day and he’ll give you a late first-round projection.

McShay, though, has former Tennessee edge rusher Byron Young being selected at No. 61 overall by the Chicago Bears. This would be Chicago’s second straight year taking a former Tennessee player after drafting Velus Jones Jr in 2022.

“The Bears had just 20 sacks last season, worst in the NFL, and bringing in Young would get them going in the right direction,” McShay wrote. “He had seven sacks in his final season at Tennessee, and his 36 pressures tied for 22nd in the nation. He quickly re-directs and has an explosive lower body, but he’s still raw when it comes to technique.”

The 2023 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 27, from Kansas City.

Author: Ethan Moore