This figures to be the best NFL Draft for Tennessee football since 2017 and potentially the deepest since going all the way back to 2002. While just seven Vols were invited to the combine, 14 took part in UT’s pro day. Here is how all of those players rank in terms of pro potential.
14. Maurese Smith
A walk-on defensive lineman who spent two years with Tennessee football after transferring from the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, Maurese Smith played in a total of four games during his UT career. At 6’3″ 315 pounds, there is literally no production to justify him having a pro career.
13. Chase McGrath
Although Chase McGrath was everything you want in a college kicker, the biggest disparity in talent in football is the difference between college and pro kickers. Pro kickers need to be automatic from beyond 40, and McGrath was 14-of-22 on such kicks for his career. He was 3-of-7 from beyond 50. That’s not going to cut it.
12. Solon Page III
Juwan Mitchell’s season-ending injury in 2021 allowed Solon Page III to emerge as part of the linebacker rotation. He was still a factor in 2022. However, Page fell back down behind Mitchell, Jeremy Banks and Aaron Beasley. Being fourth in the rotation for a weak unit is not a good sign for the pros.
11. Jeremy Banks
Production-wise, Jeremy Banks should be higher. However, he doesn’t blow you away with that, and he didn’t stand out with his physicality at the combine. As a result, his raw talent won’t overcome his character issues and intangibles. Remember, he cost Tennessee football a shot at the playoff. He’ll have the same issues in the pros.
10. LaTrell Bumphus
It was a bit odd that LaTrell Bumphus didn’t receive an invited to the combine. He really stepped up, coming off a season-ending injury, to fill the void left by Matthew Butler. Bumphus can play anywhere on the line, and at 6’3″ 290 pounds, that gives him the chance to sneak in and become an undrafted free agent.
9. Princeton Fant
Watching Princeton Fant last year should’ve made it clear he belongs on the field. Fant had multiple rushing and receiving touchdowns for Tennessee football, and he even had a passing touchdown. This day in age, with the way the NFL uses tight ends, Fant, an elite athlete, could be a major weapon at 6’2″ 245 pounds.
8. Jerome Carvin
His PFF grades never stood out, but Jerome Carvin had to spend lots of 2021 at center, where he doesn’t naturally play, and 2022 covering for the developing left tackles while focusing on his role at left guard. At 6’5′ 321 pounds, Carvin is an underrated loss for Tennessee football. He could be the next Ramon Foster in the pros: an undrafted free agent who has a 10-plus year career.
7. Trevon Flowers
By far the best Tennessee football player not invited to the NFL combine, Trevon Flowers spent his last two years at free safety covering for severe deficiencies at cornerback. He didn’t get to showcase his skills as much, but as a true center fielder, he could become a reliable contributor at the next level.
6. Jalin Hyatt
Just a 4.4 40 at the combine combined with his lack of route-running ability calls into question Jalin Hyatt’s potential at the next level. The Biletnikoff Award winner is only going to get by on speed alone, and that means it needs to be blazing. He hasn’t shown that yet, so as an NFL receiver, it’s hard to know just how good he’ll be.
5. Paxton Brooks
Punter U is in good hands with Paxton Brooks. This is a guy who could potentially get drafted. He’s not Dustin Colquitt, but Brooks didn’t get to showcase his greatness that much with Tennessee football under Josh Heupel because of how little the Vols punted and how often they did so with a short field.
4. Hendon Hooker
Everything with Hendon Hooker depends on his health and the organization that drafts him. The quarterback is athletic, has a great arm and has all the intangibles to be successful. However, he will need to develop, so he needs the right franchise to draft him and be able to work with him. If they do, he’ll be fine.
3. Cedric Tillman
Before Hyatt, Cedric Tillman was the 1,000-yard receiver for Tennessee football. Tillman would’ve been that guy last year had he not gotten hurt. At 6’3″ 215 pounds, Tillman brings more size, more physicality, better hands and better route-running to the position than Hyatt. He could be the next Jauan Jennings or Joshua Palmer.
2. Byron Young
Probably the most raw talent on this list, Byron Young was a pass-rushing machine for Tennessee football the last two years while still being raw. His potential is through the roof, and he’s the first player on this list we can say with 100 percent certainty will be successful at the next level barring injury.
1. Darnell Wright
The only five-star recruit coming out of high school who was on the Vols the last two years, Darnell Wright emerged as a superstar blocker for Tennessee football. He shut down Will Anderson in their win over the Alabama Crimson Tide, and he’ll shut down NFL edge rushers soon enough. The 6’6″ 335-pound right tackle can play either side and is almost a surefire Pro Bowler barring injury at the next level.
Thank you for sharing this article about ranking the Tennessee football prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s great to see which players are standing out and what their strengths are on the field. Keep on posting.
Thank you! Certainly will!
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