Vols Still Among Best in Nation in Producing Draft Talent

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Tennessee’s various athletic programs haven’t been producing like they used to over the last decade. Not only has football been down since the end of the 2007 season, but the baseball team hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in over a decade, and the men’s basketball is finally back on track after struggling to find consistency since Bruce Pearl was fired after the 2010-11 season.

    But despite the Vols’ run of bad play over the last decade, UT has still been one of the top programs in college athletics at producing draftable talent in all their major sports.

    According to data compiled by ESPN, the Vols are still one of the top producers of draft talent over the last decade. ESPN analyzed the last 10 draft classes from various major professional leagues — NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, MLL (lacrosse) and NFP (softball) — and devised a formula to figure out which schools have produced the most draft talent over the last decade.

    ESPN describes their formula below:

    “Draft choices for the eight leagues that were part of our survey were weighted as part of a formula that took into account the size of the draft pool — this prevented Kentucky’s and Duke’s successes in the 60-pick NBA draft, for instance, from being dwarfed by colleges that produced more players for the 256-pick NFL draft. … For this exercise, college baseball selections were limited to the top 10 rounds of the 40-round draft. All other draft classes were accounted for in their entirety.”

    And according to ESPN’s calculations, Tennessee came in at No. 16 among all universities for producing draft talent from 2009 through 2018. That’s the fourth-best in the SEC.

    Tennessee has produced a total of 66 players drafted among their major sports over the last 10 seasons. Football produced the most with 26 players taken in that span, and women’s basketball had the second-most with 16 players selected into the WNBA.

    “Tennessee has produced a good number of draftees in a variety of sports, from football (26) to women’s basketball (16) to baseball (13 in the first 10 rounds) to softball (7),” the article states. “The football program is in the midst of a dry spell but has still produced NFL talent. After making the College World Series in 2001 and 2005, the baseball team has also fallen on hard times. The same can’t be said for women’s basketball, which is one of the best programs in the country. The Lady Vols have made the NCAA tournament every year since 1982 and have won eight championships, including titles in 2007 and 2008.”

    UT’s numbers are still strong despite the football team seeing their 50-year streak of having at least one player selected into the NFL come to an end in 2015 and 2016. The men’s basketball team also has had a bit of a dry spell recently. No Vol basketball player has been drafted into the NBA since Josh Richardson in 2015, and the Vols have only had four players drafted into the NBA in the 10-year span ESPN looked at.

    Tennessee came in just ahead of Georgia, who ranked No. 17 on ESPN’s list. The three SEC schools who ranked ahead of UT were Kentucky (4th), Florida (8th) and LSU (11th). North Carolina came in first place.

    The Vols may have fallen on hard times recently, but they’ve still produced plenty of talented players across all their major sports. Now with things appearing on the rise in men’s basketball, baseball, and possibly in football, Tennessee should only climb in those rankings.

    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.