Having players from your school selected in the NFL Draft is a monumental deal. It provides coaches with credibility on the recruiting trail, where young high school athletes are hyper-focused on picking the university that gives them the best chance to make it big. Over the next few days, several former Vols will have the chance to enter the NFL, and with the COVID-19 Pandemic at a climax, there is no doubt that all eyes will be watching.
The Vols that earned an invitation to the NFL Combine are wide-receivers Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway, linebacker Daniel Bituli, tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson, and edge-rusher Darrell Taylor. The five, along with safety Nigel Warrior, are expected to have a chance at being selected in the draft; with Jennings and Taylor having the highest stock.
Darrell Taylor has the highest draft stock of the six, with most media outlets expecting him to be taken in the third round of the draft. CBS Sports is the highest on Taylor, projecting him to go to Arizona as the 72nd overall pick, followed by NFL.com, which believes that Taylor is destined to end up in Las Vegas as the 80th overall pick. Sports Illustrated is the lowest media organization on Taylor, projecting him to go to the Giants as the 99th overall pick.
Taylor is known for his relentless efforts to get to the quarterback, as he helped lead Tennessee’s defense throughout his career on Rocky Top. His toughness is fully apparent, as he battled through injury during his entire senior season, and did not participate in the combine after receiving surgery to treat a fractured shin in early January.
Jauan Jennings has the second best stock of the former Vols, but his week seems more unclear than Taylor’s. Jennings was a dark horse candidate to be selected in the first round early on, but after a poor showing in the NFL Combine, his stock plummeted. Sporting News is the highest media organization on Jennings, projecting him to be selected by the New Orleans Saints as the 88th overall pick in the third round. Sports Illustrated predicts Jennings to be taken by the Jets as the 158th overall pick in the fifth round, while CBS projects the large wide-receiver to land in Indianapolis as the 197th overall pick in the sixth round. However, some organizations, such as NFL.com, are not as confident in Jennings — predicting that he will not be selected in the draft.
With his large physical frame, relentless personality, and ability to break tackles with ease, Jennings will be the steal of the 2020 NFL Draft. He led the nation in broken tackles according to PPF in the 2019-20 season, and is known in the SEC for catching a last second hail mary at the buzzer to give the Vols a victory over Georgia in 2016.
Daniel Bituli’s future seems more bleak than Jennings’ and Taylor’s, as CBS Sports, NFL.com, Sports Illustrated, and others predict that he will not be selected in the draft. However, Sporting News predicts that Bituli will be picked by the Washington Redskins as the 216th overall pick in the 7th Round.
Bituli was a leader on the defensive side of the ball for Tennessee, but his lack of speed is seemingly hurting his stock. He led the Vols in tackles, and was instrumental in bringing the team together to win their 6 final games and the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl over Indiana.
Wide-receiver Marquez Callaway, tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson, and safety Nigel Warrior are all projected to be free agents according to most media outlets, however, many claim Callaway is the most underrated prospect in the draft.
The Draft will begin on Thursday evening, as the first 32 selections will be made. It will be televised by ESPN and the NFL Network at 8:00ET.