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Tennessee Football’s First Round Projections in Tuesday Mock Drafts

Tennessee NFL Jalin Hyatt
Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt projects as a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics.

It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between the ESPN experts compiling the Tuesday morning mock drafts each week leading into the 2023 NFL Draft.

Last Tuesday, Feb. 28, ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr. listed Darnell Wright as his No. 16 overall projected pick to the Washington Commanders. Kiper spoke about Washington’s poor offensive line play last year and how it contributed to one of the worst yards per play averages in the league, and how Wright can come in and be a needle-mover on the Commanders’ offensive line.

This week though, Todd McShay is up to the plate once again, with a little less favorable opinion on Wright. McShay still has the former four-year Tennessee player in the first round, just not the Top 20 like Kiper.

McShay’s mock draft for ESPN on Tuesday has Darnell Wright projected to be selected at No. 24 overall and entering the AFC South with a pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“If the Jaguars let Jawaan Taylor leave in free agency, Wright could be the replacement at right tackle opposite Cam Robinson,” McShay wrote. “He plays with great balance and is outstanding as a run blocker. At 6-5 and 333 pounds, he ran a 5.01 in the 40-yard dash, showing his quicks. I liked what I saw at the Senior Bowl, too. Wright would help keep quarterback Trevor Lawrence upright and open up seams for running back Travis Etienne Jr. as the Jaguars continue to emerge as a player in the AFC. He allowed just one sack in 2022.”

More from RTI: WATCH – Tennessee Players Compete at the NFL Combine

Darnell Wright continues to be one of the top offensive linemen in the class and has been working hard through the Senior Bowl in February and the NFL Combine in March. While Wright wasn’t the most talkative at Tennessee, particularly to the media, his play on the field has been more than enough to put him in the first-round conversations.

And, that’s exactly what it looks like. Wright looks to be shaping up to be a near first-round lock as we move closer and closer to the month of April.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Wright going at No. 30 to the Philadelphia Eagles, while Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports has Wright projected at No. 14 to the New England Patriots in his mock draft from Tuesday morning.

“The Patriots have needs at wide receiver but instead look first to bolster the offensive line,” Wilson wrote. “Wright had Day 3 grades coming into the 2022 season and was dominant for the Vols, and he capped that off with a strong Senior Bowl week. Don’t be surprised if he makes his way into Round 1.

Tennessee’s other potential first-round prospect, wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, looks to potentially be on the outside looking in.

Neither Dane Brugler nor Todd McShay has Hyatt as a first-round draftee, despite having one of the best NFL Combine appearances from a prospect this year. Hyatt finished as the No. 1-ranked wide receiver at the combine this past weekend in Indianapolis.

One spot to keep in mind, though… the New York Football Giants.

If Jalin Hyatt is going to go in the first round, it seems like the Giants continue to be the name with the most interest in the former Tennessee Biletnikoff Award winner. The Giants are desperately looking for an injection of speed into the offense considering one of their only reliable pass catchers last year was widely injured running back Saquan Barkley. We’ll see if Hyatt’s jaw-dropping day at the combine helps increase his draft stock over the next few weeks until the NFL Draft.

Ryan Wilson’s CBS Sports mock draft does have Hyatt projected to go No. 25 to the New York Giants, too.

“Jalin Hyatt wasn’t in the first-round conversation heading into the 2022 season, but he’s a great example of a player taking advantage of his opportunities, thanks in large part to Hendon Hooker’s Heisman Trophy campaign,” Wilson wrote. “Hyatt is a bona-fide deep threat who consistently beat defensive backs who were helpless to do much about it all season.”

There are now two important dates for this spring: March 30 and April 27.

March 30 is Tennessee football’s official Pro Day, which will be held in Knoxville. Rocky Top Insider will have you covered on that full event.

April 27 is the start of the 2023 NFL Draft, which will continue through April 29 in Kansas City.

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