Last year, the Vols had six players get taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. And of those six, half of them were selected during the first two days (rounds one through three) of the draft.
This year, however, the Vols will be lucky to have a single player taken in the first two days.
Most full seven-round mock drafts for the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft have at least two Vols being selected by NFL teams. Running back John Kelly and defensive back Rashaan Gaulden are almost guaranteed to get picked sometime during the draft later this month. A large amount of mock drafts also have defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie getting selected in one of the later rounds, giving the Vols three drafted players for this upcoming draft.
But unlike last year, the Vols don’t have a bona fide first-round pick, nor do they have players who received consistent second or third-round grades. Last year, Derek Barnett was a no-brainer in the first round. Running back Alvin Kamara received some second round hype, but he ultimately was drafted in the third round. Cam Sutton was taken shortly after Kamara as well.
This year? The Vols will be lucky if they have a player taken before the third day of the draft. But a popular NFL draft analyst thinks it’s entirely possible for Tennessee to have a player go in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.
Dane Brugler, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, released his full seven-round mock draft recently. In that draft, he has three Vols getting selected, and he has one of them going on the second day. According to Brugler, Rashaan Gaulden will be drafted with the 96th overall pick in the third round by the Buffalo Bills.
Of the last three times the Vols have had players taken in the draft (2017, 2014, 2013), they’ve had at least one player taken in the first three rounds. All three of those drafts saw a Vol get picked in the first round. In fact, dating back to 1976, the Vols have had at least one player taken in the first three rounds of all but five NFL drafts. And all five of those years have come in the last decade and a half.
The 2011 draft didn’t see a Vol get drafted till the fourth round, and the 2004 and 2012 drafts didn’t have a Vol taken until the fifth round. The 2015 and 2016 drafts had no Vols selected at all.
This year could mark the sixth time in the last 15 drafts that the Vols go without a player being drafted in the first three rounds. Prior to the 2004 draft, the Vols went 28 consecutive drafts with at least one player selected in the first three rounds of the draft. Gaulden is the Vols’ most likely bet to be taken in the first two days this year, and John Kelly could potentially sneak into the third round as well.
Brugler has Kelly being picked at the tail end of the fourth round in his latest mock draft. He has Kelly being selected 136th overall by the Los Angeles Rams. That pick is the second-to-last in the fourth round. Brugler also has Kahlil McKenzie being drafted late in the sixth round, going to the Houston Texans with the 214th overall pick.
The Vols don’t have the headliners at this year’s draft like they did last year. But Tennessee is finally back to churning out consistent NFL talent, and this year will begin another streak of Vols being selected in the NFL Draft after last year ended a two-year drought.
The 2018 NFL Draft beings Thursday, April 26th. The first round will be on Thursday, rounds two and three will be on Friday, and rounds four through seven will be on Saturday.