Former Vol Ranked As Top Young NFL Breakout Star

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    Former Tennessee receiver Josh Palmer impressed in his first season with the Los Angeles Chargers earning a spot in the receiver rotation and building chemistry with quarterback Justin Herbert.

    People are taking notice of Palmer’s strong rookie campaign. Well, ESPN is at least.

    The former Tennessee receiver came in at No. 1 on ESPN’s annual list of best under the radar breakout stars.

    The list is supposed to highlight players like Palmer who weren’t high draft picks and the casual NFL fan across the country may not know now but could know soon.

    Here are ESPN’s qualifications for the rankings.

    • Drafted in third round or later.
    • Entered NFL between 2019 and 2021.
    • Fewer than 500 career snaps.
    • Have not signed an extension.
    • 26 or younger.

    Palmer meets all the requirements to land on the list. The Chargers selected the now 22-year old in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Canada native’s play on the field landed him at the top of the 25-player list.

    “The extremely exciting part is that Palmer is dialed into one of the best offenses in the NFL,” the article states. “(Keenan) Allen might not be washed up yet, but he turned 30 in April and will eventually leave a target vacuum to be filled. Palmer has also already earned his quarterback’s confidence.”

    Palmer caught 33 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie and got better-and-better as the year went on, catching three of his touchdowns in the final five weeks of the season.

    Despite a strong rookie season, Los Angeles is looking for more out of Palmer in 2022.

    “This year it’s a different Josh Palmer out there. He knows exactly where he’s going. We throw a bunch after practice. I feel comfortable with him,” Justin Herbert told reporters in June.

    Palmer isn’t the only former Tennessee receiver on the list. Volunteer legend Jauan Jennings comes in at No. 18 after breaking out in his second professional season.

    Jennings caught 24 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns in his second season. The Murfreesboro native seemed to always deliver when the 49ers called his number in big moments.

    “After spending most of 2020 on the practice squad, Jennings became the 49ers’ third wideout as the 2021 season wound down and Mohamed Sanu and Trent Sherfield were found lacking,” ESPN wrote. “Jennings caught two touchdowns against the Rams.”

    Both Jennings and Palmer are looking to live up to increased expectations in 2022. Both the 49ers and Chargers open their season on Sept. 11.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.

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