Vols Among Best in SEC in Producing First-Round Talent

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Since the year 2000, the Vols have been one of the most consistent teams in the SEC in terms of churning out first-round picks in the NFL draft. And that’s despite going through one of the worst stretches in the school’s history from 2008-2014 and having no players drafted in either the 2015 and 2016 drafts.

    Including this year’s first round, the Vols have had 15 players taken in the first round since 2000. Derek Barnett became the first Vol to be taken in the first round since Ja’Wuan James in 2014 when he was selected No. 14 overall on Thursday night. Tennessee has also had four players taken in the top 10 picks in that span, and two of those player were selected as top five picks.

    Tennessee’s 15 first-round selections over the last 18 drafts is tied for the fourth-most in the SEC in that span. Georgia has also had 15 players taken in the first round, and only Alabama (24), Florida (21), and LSU (18) have had more.

    The SEC tied their own record in this year’s first round with 12 players from the conference being selected, including No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. When the Cleveland Browns selected Garrett, he was the sixth SEC player since 2000 to be taken with the No. 1 pick. The five others are Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina), Eil Manning (Ole Miss), Cam Newton (Auburn), Jamarcus Russell (LSU), and Matthew Stafford (Georgia). Kentucky’s Tim Couch was taken No. 1 overall in 1999, as well as the Vols’ Peyton Manning in 1998.

    Here’s the complete list of all 14 SEC schools and their number of first-round picks, top 10 picks, and top 5 picks since 2000:

    Alabama: 24, 9 top 10, 4 top 5
    Florida: 21, 5 top 10, 2 top 5
    LSU: 18, 10 top 10, 5 top 5,
    Georgia: 15, 6 top 10, 2 top 5
    Tennessee: 15, 4 top 10, 2 top 5
    Texas A&M: 11, 6 top 10, 3 top 5
    Auburn: 10, 5 top 10, 3 top 5
    Ole Miss: 10, 1 top 10, 1 top 5
    Missouri: 9, 3 top 10, 1 top 5
    South Carolina: 7, 4 top 10, 1 top 5
    Arkansas: 6, 2 top 10, 1 top 5
    Kentucky: 2, 1 top 10, 1 top 5
    Mississippi State: 2, 0 top 10, 0 top 5
    Vanderbilt: 2, 0 top 10, 0 top 5

    LSU has had the most top 10 selections as well as the most top 5 picks in the SEC since 2000. The Vols have the seventh-most top 10 picks in that span and the third-most in the SEC East.

    The Vols may have had a dip in production and talent in the last decade, but they’ve still remained one of the best producers of elite talent in the SEC despite that. Now with the talent cupboard restocked more than it has been in several years, Vol fans should expect Tennessee to put out a few more first-round picks in the coming years.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.