The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone. Tennessee didn’t have any players drafted in last year’s draft, but this draft season brought two selections for the Vols and a handful of undrafted Vols finding NFL homes as well. How do the former Vol players fit with their new NFL teams? We take a look.
Darrell Taylor, Edge Rusher
The Seattle Seahawks traded up to draft Taylor with the 48th overall pick in the second round of the draft. Taylor became the first Tennessee player drafted by Seattle since they selected Rashad Moore in the sixth round of the 2003 draft.
I don’t know that it’s possible for Taylor to have landed in a better situation. Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have been notorious for developing edge rushers in their defense, specifically at the LEO position, which is simply a hybrid pass rusher that isn’t quite a defensive end or an outside linebacker.
Chris Clemons, Frank Clark, and Cliff Avril are the most recent LEO rushers who have produced in Seattle. Taylor should be the next. He’s got the height, weight, speed, flexibility, and power to get the job done. Those traits alone will give him an opportunity to contribute early.
Whether or not Taylor can continue to develop his pass rush moves will determine just how much success he has in the NFL. I have no doubt that Carroll and his staff will help Taylor do just that. Seattle is a great fit for the Hampton, Virginia native.
Jauan Jennings, Wide Receiver
Jennings was the second and final Tennessee draft pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. The former Vol wide receiver had to wait until day three, but he still fell into great hands in the San Francisco 49ers with the 217th overall pick in the seventh round. Jennings was the second wide receiver the organization drafted. They also took Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk in the first round.
Despite being a seventh round pick, Jennings will have a great chance to make the 49ers’ roster out of camp, as the wide receiver room is unproven outside of Deebo Samuel. Though Jennings’ athleticism isn’t through the roof, his tenacity and passion will give him a chance to be the team’s fourth or fifth wide receiver. Jennings is the type of player that 49ers general manager and former NFL safety John Lynch loves.
His lack of speed will lead to an inability to separate from NFL defensive backs, but because of his physicality and size, Jennings has the potential to be a very productive slot wide receiver. Lynch and Jennings’ ideal style of football makes San Francisco a great fit for one of the all-time fan favorites in Tennessee history.
Marquez Callaway, Wide Receiver
Callaway was the first of three known Vols to sign an undrafted free agent deal on Saturday night shortly following the NFL Draft. The former Vol wide receiver wasted no time signing a deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Who can blame Callaway for choosing the Saints? It’s an ideal landing spot for an undrafted wide receiver. Callaway will have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees throwing him the football as he attempts to make the team. At the receiver position, Michael Thomas is the only proven receiver outside of an aging Emmanuel Sanders. For the cherry on top, former Vols Alvin Kamara and Shy Tuttle can serve as familiar faces to Callaway as current Saints.
Callaway will have to prove he’s much more than just a deep threat in New Orleans if he wants to make the roster. His ability on special teams will help his value, as will the quarterback throwing him the football, as long as Callaway also proves he can get open.
Nigel Warrior, Safety
Warrior continues the trend of good fits for the Vols making their way to the professional ranks. The safety will begin his career where his father, Dale Carter, finished his: in Baltimore with the Ravens.
In Baltimore, Warrior will have a terrific opportunity to continue his ascent as a productive safety. Warrior was the No. 4 overall safety coming out of Peachtree, Georgia, but he never lived up to the billing until about midway through the course of his senior season. He burst onto the scene following the month of September as he worked his way to an All-SEC First Team selection. Warrior picked off a career-high four passes, which ranked second in the conference, and he led the team in passes defended with 13. Most importantly, he cut down on the number of missed tackles he had.
Warrior has the aggressive nature and natural skill to make it as a safety in the NFL. He just needs to continue to improve on the mental aspect of the game and continue to clean up his technique. It’s hard to find a better place to continue to do that than in a defensive-minded culture such as Baltimore.
Dominick Wood-Anderson, Tight End
As of Sunday night, Daniel Bituli had not signed a free agent deal, making Dominick Wood-Anderson the last Vol to sign a free agent deal for the time being. The former Tennessee tight end signed a deal with the Seahawks following the draft to join Taylor in Seattle.
Wood-Anderson didn’t quite live up to the hype he arrived with in Knoxville following his stint in the junior college ranks. He was the top JUCO tight end when he arrived and went on to start 17 games over two seasons, but he caught just 38 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns.
The potential for Wood-Anderson to make a team exists, however. He’s faster than your typical tight end and is athletic enough to make plays as a bigger pass catcher. Wood-Anderson offers upside in those areas, but he will need to develop as a blocker and a route-runner if he wants to stick around in Seattle.