“It would be an honor if I was the one to continue to that streak and be drafted,” Coleman said after UT’s Pro Day in March. “That would be pretty cool.”
Tennessee’s had at least one player selected in each NFL Draft since 1963 – a 51-year streak that hangs in the balance. The Vols also have several talented potential NFL prospects coming up on their current roster. But the streak is in some degree of jeopardy this year. Coleman is projected as a mid-to-late round pick, but in the inexact science that is the draft, anything can happen. Coleman boosted his stock at the NFL Combine in February, where he placed among the best defensive backs in multiple categories.
Coleman performed well enough at the combine that CBSSports.com Draft Analyst Dane Brugler, who joined RTI Radio earlier this spring, said he thinks the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Coleman has a good chance to go at some point later in the draft.
“Justin Coleman – he’s interesting,” Brugler said. “Based on the past few years, based on his senior season, to be honest, I wasn’t overly-impressed. He impressed me at the East-West Shrine Game, I had a chance to see him up close and personal, right there on the sideline. He had a nice week there at Tampa. And then he went to the combine and did what he needed to do, running a 4.53 40, he looked good in the other drills, including an outstanding number in the three-cone: 6.61.
“So you know, it makes me go back to the tape. He’s one of those guys that, based on what I’ve seen the last few months, it’s making me kind of go back and see if I was missing something on the tape, or does he workout better than he plays football? None the less, Coleman, a player I’m going back to, because on tape, a little upright in the backpedal. When he was beat by speed, he didn’t have the recovery speed to make that up. But you know he had good play recognition, great quickness on the ball, and those types of qualities is what you want in a defensive back, so I think there’s a good chance you could see Justin Coleman sneak into the later rounds, but definitely a player I need to do more homework on.”
The Vols lost another potential draftee when former linebacker A.J. Johnson was indicted on rape charges in February and now awaits trail. A talented player that easily could’ve been a mid-round selection, Johnson’s legal concerns will likely keep him off draft boards over the weekend.
Jordan Williams, Matt Darr, Devrin Young, Marlin Lane and Justin Worley are among the other graduating seniors who will be looking for professional opportunities, but none of them are being seriously considered as draft candidates at this point. They will likely have to earn their way through an undrafted free-agent opportunity or by playing in a lower league initially.
Draft Schedule: (Coverage available via ESPN, NFL Network and NFL.com)
Round 1: Thursday, April 30, 8 p.m. ET
Rounds 2-3: Friday, May 1, 7 p.m.
Rounds 4-7: Saturday, May 2, Noon