NFL.com is ranking every college’s top draft picks of this current century, and Friday they ranked Tennessee’s top NFL draft picks since the year 2000.
The Vols have had nearly 80 players drafted into the NFL since the 2000 NFL Draft, and that includes six Vols that were selected in the most recent 2017 NFL Draft. NFL.com’s list ranks the five best Vols selected into the NFL this century then gives six honorable mentions after the ranking as well.
NFL.com’s ranking was decided by a point system that gave players points based on their honors and longevity. Players were rewarded points for Pro Bowl selections (including making it as an injury replacement), for being selected as a first-team All-Pro player, winning MVP awards, and other such accolades. The article also notes that players were “also rewarded relative to where in the draft they were selected. First-round picks benefited least because a strong career would be expected; seventh-round picks benefited most. In some cases, a longevity bonus was granted.”
And according to those calculations, Jason Witten is the best Vol that has been drafted into the NFL since 2000. It’s worth noting that Peyton Manning was drafted in 1998, so he is, obviously, exempt from this list.
Witten earned 28.6 points and was rewarded for his 10-time Pro Bowl selections and his 14-year (and counting) career in the NFL. His 11,888 receiving yards are the most ever for a tight end in NFL history, and Witten has appeared in all but one game in his entire NFL career. He recently signed a four-year contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys, the team he has played for his entire career after they drafted him with the 69th overall pick in the 2003 draft.
Eric Berry comes in just behind Witten with 24.2 points despite Witten playing in more than double the games Berry has in his career. Albert Haynesworth and Jamal Lewis were tied with 13.2 points (both are no longer in the league), and Jerod Mayo rounded out the top five with 12.1 points despite cutting his career shorter than expected by retiring after the 2015 season due to a multitude of injuries in his career.
The Vols listed as honorable mention selections were Cordarrelle Patterson (12 points), Travis Henry (3.6 points), Chad Clifton (2.4 points), Shaun Ellis (2.2 points), John Henderson (2.2 points), and Scott Wells (1.7 points).
Of the 11 Vols listed in the article, only three (Witten, Berry, Patterson) are still playing in the NFL.