Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.
The latest NFL mock draft from Pro Football Network has four Tennessee Volunteers slated as second-round draft picks.
Tennessee had five players selected in the 2021 draft, with only one being taken before the third round. Despite a solid number of picks, most of them were back-heavy in the draft. That’s not how the 2023 draft is projecting for Tennessee, though.
In the second year of Josh Heupel’s system, Tennessee had the top offense in the nation in multiple categories. That’s why it’s not a surprise to see four different offensive players for the Vols project as second-round draft picks.
Offensive tackle Darnell Wright is the first player to be mentioned by Pro Football Network, projected as the 38th overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals. The 38th pick also equals out to the sixth pick of the second round.
Do you remember Will Anderson’s huge day for Alabama against Tennessee in Knoxville in October? Neither do I. And that was because of Darnell Wright holding down the right side of the offensive line. Wright has the ability to pass protect for a pocket-passing quarterback, pass protect for a heads-up running quarterback, and has no problem with conditioning in an up-tempo offense.
On Monday morning, Reese’s Senior Bowl announced that Wright would be a participant in the prestigious game in early 2023.
More from RTI: ESPN Draft Expert Says Hendon Hooker’s Stock Isn’t Free Falling
Next up on PFN’s list is Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker at No. 53 to the Seattle Seahawks.
“Hendon Hooker‘s sensational season might have ended prematurely, but his arm talent, toughness, and creativity should make sure that he’s in the ‘best of the rest’ group behind Young, Levis, Stroud, and Richardson,” PFN’s Oliver Hodgkinson wrote about the Tennessee quarterback.
Hooker suffered a season-ending ACL injury against South Carolina in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Despite that, though, Hooker clearly made his presence felt in the other 10 games of the regular season, defeating ranked teams in five of those games. While he wasn’t invited to New York for the ceremony, Hooker was named the Heisman Trophy fan vote winner that same night.
The other two second-round picks that Pro Football Network has is a pair of Volunteer wide receivers late in the round. The projection has the Chicago Bears taking Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt with the 25th pick in the second round (No. 56 overall) just one year after taking WR Velus Jones Jr in the third round of the draft.
And, lastly, preseason First Team All-SEC selection Cedric Tillman lands a projection as the No. 60 overall pick (No. 28 in the second round) to one of the most electric offenses in the NFL – the Kansas City Chiefs.
It would be insane to see a healthy Cedric Tillman work alongside Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Juju Smith-Schuster… and former Tennessee teammate Trey Smith.
Smith and Tillman were teammates together at Tennessee for three years from 2018 to 2020.
Tennessee has not had multiple second-round picks since the 2007 NFL Draft when the Buccaneers took OG Aaron Sears with the No. 35 overall pick followed by the Chiefs taking DT Turk McBride with the No. 54 overall pick just a little while later.
Notable Second Round Picks from Tennessee (1941 to present)
1941 – Rams select T Abe Shires No. 14 overall
1969 – Cowboys select WR Richmond Flowers No. 49 overall
1987 – Raiders select OT Bruce Wilkerson No. 52 overall
1990 – Buccaneers select RB Reggie Cobb No. 30 overall
1992 – Bengals select WR Carl Pickens No. 31 overall
1992 – Falcons select DE Chuck Smith No. 51 overall
1997 – Oilers select WR Joey Kent No. 46 overall
1999 – Bills select WR Peerless Price No. 53 overall
2000 – Packers select OT Chad Clifton No. 44 overall
2000 – Cowboys select DB Dwayne Goodrich No. 49 overall
2001 – Bills select RB Travis Henry No. 58 overall
2005 – Cowboys select OLB Kevin Burnett No. 42 overall
2010 – Browns select RB Montario Hardesty No. 59 overall
2013 – Titans select WR Justin Hunter No. 34 overall
2020 – Seahawks select DE Darrell Taylor No. 48 overall
2022 – Saints select DB Alontae Taylor No. 49 overall