After not having a player drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft and being shut out of the draft in three of the last five years, Tennessee finally got to celebrate this past weekend when two Vols got selected in the 2020 draft. Edge rusher Darrell Taylor was taken in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks, and wide receiver Jauan Jennings was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round.
At the program’s peak, having two players drafted would be considered a down year for the Vols. But for the current state of Tennessee’s football program, simply getting UT’s name back in the draft was a step in the right direction.
The 2020 NFL Draft was a sight for sore eyes for Vol fans, but the 2021 draft could — and should — see several more Vols get drafted into the NFL. Tennessee didn’t have a large senior class after the 2019 season, and none of their underclassmen declared early for the draft.
Once the 2020 season comes to an end, the Vols will have several seniors eligible for the draft, and there’s a good chance a handful of UT players will forgo their final season as Vols and enter the draft.
Health obviously will play a big role in whether or not Tennessee’s top players get drafted, but the Vols have a first-round caliber player for next year’s draft and several other names that could be sprinkled through the other six rounds.
Let’s take a look at the 10 Vols who could be taken in the 2021 NFL Draft next year.
Two Vols could play their way into being drafted by the end of the 2020 season, but as of right now their prospects aren’t as high as others on this list. They still warrant mentioning, however.
Starting center Brandon Kennedy was a consistent presence for the Vols in the middle of the offensive line this past season, and he returns for a sixth year of college after getting a medical waiver for missing all but one game of the 2018 season. His play likely should at least get him a look by NFL scouts, but his age and injury history will be red flags. If he goes out and has an All-SEC season in 2020, then he could certainly find his way onto draft boards. But he has a lot going against him right now.
Though he’s been productive in his career, running back Ty Chandler hasn’t quite been productive enough to truly stand out to NFL scouts. Chandler has good ability and is a versatile back, but he’s struggled with consistency and has never been able to establish himself as the true No. 1 back in UT’s offense. Given that the running back position isn’t valued as highly in the NFL as it used to be, and Chandler’s draft prospects look somewhat slim. His pass catching ability is a plus for him, as is his ability as a kick returner. But with the kick return game being limited more in the NFL, even that’s not as big of a plus for Chandler as it would’ve been a decade ago.