Not enough has been made about the surprise of Tennessee football wide receiver Jalin Hyatt’s decision to enter the 2023 NFL Draft. Okay, on the surface it makes perfect sense.
Hyatt just won the Biletnikoff Award and caught 67 passes for 1,267 yards and a school-record 15 touchdowns this past year. Obviously, him opting out of the Orange Bowl and going pro isn’t shocking.
However, the timing was odd. Hyatt inked an NIL deal just over a week earlier with Hyatt Hotels, ON3 reported. Three days after that, ON3 reported he inked a deal with Everett Sports Marketing for NIL representation.
It’s a little odd for him to declare for the draft within a week of doing something like that. The only explanation is that something didn’t work out the way he thought it might have. One possibility is that the NIL money didn’t outweigh draft money.
Another possibility, though, is the roster personnel. Could Hyatt be leaving Tennessee football because he doesn’t like the quarterback situation for the Vols next year?
Obviously, Hyatt burst onto the scene catching beautiful deep balls from Hendon Hooker. Joe Milton III has a cannon for an arm, but he still has those accuracy issues.
If nothing changes at the position, Hyatt’s options to throw him the ball next year would have been Milton or a quarterback who has never started a game. Sure, Nico Iamaleava has a ton of hype, but why would he hitch his wagon to a true freshman?
Perhaps Hyatt was waiting to see if Josh Heupel would target a quarterback in the transfer portal. Dave Hooker wrote earlier this month the Vols should be going after somebody.
At this point, though, based on what Heupel has said, what the players have said and the lack of movement, it’s clear the Vols aren’t getting one. Their options next year are Milton, Iamaleava, Tayven Jackson, Navy Shuler or Gaston Moore.
None of those guys will do next year what Hooker did this past year for Tennessee football. The Vols can still have a solid offense, but it won’t be as friendly to receivers.
As a result, if you’re a guy like Hyatt, why would you risk your draft stock over that? Cedric Tillman, who is also turning pro and opting out, hurt his stock by getting injured this year after being a 1,000-yard receiver last year.
That same risk applies to Hyatt, and he has the added risk of not having Hooker return to throw him passes. Alex Golesh being gone probably doesn’t help either.
Taking all this into account, Hyatt going pro is even a more obvious decision. However, the timing suggests he held out a bit. It’s very possible the issues facing Tennessee football at quarterback are the reason.