The 2020 NFL Draft starts this Thursday, April 23rd, and runs through Saturday, April 25th. But this year’s draft will be unlike any draft before it.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the 2020 NFL Draft will be held virtually rather than inside a huge auditorium as per usual. Over four dozen draft prospects have been given virtual kits to set up at their places of residence so fans can see their reactions to being drafted, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be at his own separate location to announce the selections.
This year’s draft will be an unprecedented one, but Tennessee is hoping to get back to business as usual for their program.
The Vols were shut out of the 2019 NFL Draft, marking the third time in the last five years that Tennessee failed to have a player taken in the NFL Draft. Prior to the 2015 draft, the Vols had at least one player taken in the draft for 50-straight years.
Tennessee should end their one-year drought in this year’s NFL Draft, and multiple Vols are likely to come off the board.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Tennessee had five players invited to the 2020 NFL Combine. Linebacker/edge rusher Darrell Taylor, linebacker Daniel Bituli, tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson, wide receiver Jauan Jennings, and wide receiver Marquez Callaway were all invited to this year’s combine. Taylor did not participate as he rehabbed from offseason surgery, but the four other Vols all went through the drills at the annual event.
Along with those five players, Tennessee also has safety Nigel Warrior and wide receiver Tyler Byrd as draft-eligible players who graduated from UT after the 2019 season.
Though Tennessee has seven players eligible for this year’s draft, only two or three of them are expected to be selected during the three-day draft. Darrell Taylor and Jauan Jennings have gotten the most pre-draft love, and Daniel Bituli has shown up in a few mock drafts as well.
With the draft set to begin with the first round on Thursday, we take one last look at where Tennessee’s players are projected in various mock drafts for the 2020 NFL Draft.
We’ve only looked at full seven-round mock drafts since none of Tennessee’s players are projected to be taken in the first two rounds
In the final seven-round mock draft produced by CBS Sports, only two Vols are selected in this year’s NFL Draft. R.J. White of CBS Sports has Darrell Taylor going No. 72 overall in the third round to the Arizona Cardinals, and Jauan Jennings is picked No. 197 overall in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts after a trade. White’s projection of Taylor at No. 72 overall is the highest Taylor is predicted heading into the home stretch of the pre-draft process.
White didn’t share his thoughts on Jennings, but he believes Taylor can provide help as an edge rusher for the Cardinals on the second day of the draft.
“With their one Day 2 pick, the Cardinals land some edge-rushing help in the form of Taylor, who has an excellent ceiling but needs to be coached up in order to become a lineup mainstay,” White writes. “That potential is going to land him on Day 2.”
Though Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has two Vols getting drafted, both players don’t come off the board until Day 3 of the draft. Miller has Darrell Taylor going No. 119 overall to the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round. After that, Jauan Jennings gets taken in the seventh round with the No. 235 overall pick by the Detroit Lions.
As a bonus, Miller also has positional rankings heading into the draft, and several Vols are included in his final big board. Jennings checks in as the No. 31 overall wide receiver, and Marquez Callaway comes in at No. 64 at the position. Dominick Wood-Anderson is the 20th-best tight end, and Daniel Bituli is the 30th-best linebacker. Darrell Taylor is the highest-rated of the ground, checking in at No. 8 among all edge rushers.
Logan Lamorandier of Sports Illustrated has three Vols getting selected through all seven rounds. First off the board is Darrell Taylor, going No. 84 overall in the third round to the Los Angeles Rams. Tennessee doesn’t have another player taken until the sixth round, where Sports Illustrated has two Vols getting selected. The New England Patriots take Daniel Bituli with the 195th overall pick, and just five spots later Jauan Jennings comes off the board with the 200th overall pick by the Chicago Bears.
Unlike the rest of the seven-round mock drafts, Sporting News doesn’t have Darrell Taylor as the first Vol selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Instead, Jauan Jennings comes off the board first according to Sporting News, being selected No. 88 overall in the third round by the New Orleans Saints. That’s Jennings’ highest projection heading into Thursday. Taylor follows closely behind, getting drafted with the 91st overall pick by the Las Vegas Raiders. Daniel Bituli finds his way to an NFL team in the seventh round, coming off the board with the second pick in the round and the No. 216 overall selection to Washington.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Darrell Taylor and Jauan Jennings as the only two Vols getting taken in this year’s NFL Draft. According to Brugler, Darrell Taylor will go No. 86 overall in the third round to the Buffalo Bills, and Jauan Jennings will come off the board in the seventh round to the Minnesota Vikings, being drafted with the 219th overall pick.
Over on DraftSite.com, only one Vol makes it into their seven-round mock draft. Darrell Taylor is the only Tennessee player in their full mock draft, and those projections has him being selected No. 95 overall by the Denver Broncos in the third round.
Just like on DraftSite.com, NFL.com only has one Vol getting selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Darrell Taylor gets picked by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 80th overall pick in the third round. No other Tennessee player appears in NFL.com’s seven-round mock.