The 2017 NFL Draft is just a week away, and for the first time in two years, the Vols will be well-represented on draft day.
Tennessee has a handful of guys that are certain to be drafted, while a couple Vols could potentially sneak their way into the later rounds of the draft. With NFL teams searching for the next faces of their franchises, let’s look at where the Tennessee prospects would be good fits.
Best fits – Saints, Panthers, Bengals
These three teams have one thing in common: they must upgrade their pass rush. Barnett would do just that for any NFL team, but especially these three. The Bengals finished 19th in sacks last season, while the Saints finished 27th in the league. With the departure of Kony Ealy in Carolina, the Panthers need an edge presence to replace his production. As a top-three pass rusher in this year’s draft class, Barnett would be an instant upgrade. With the Panthers picking at No. 8 and the Bengals picking at No. 9, don’t expect Tennessee’s all-time sack leader to make it out of the top 10.
Best fits – Eagles, Packers, Colts
Kamara is regarded as a borderline late first-round pick or an early second-round pick. Depending on the particular team’s grade, the former Vols running back could easily find himself being selected as early as the middle of the first round.
The Eagles, Packers, and Colts are in need of a dynamic running back that can take their offenses to the next level. Each of these teams has an excellent quarterback in place, and pairing them with Kamara could be deadly. Wentz, Luck, and Rodgers utilize the running back quite often in the passing game and Kamara is one of the best receiving backs in this year’s class. Dumping the ball off to Kamara on screen plays or in the slot allows him to do what he does best: make plays in the open field.
Best fits – Steelers, Patriots, Cardinals
After a marvelous Tennessee career, Dobbs now takes his talents to the NFL, where he has the tools to be a successful pro. First things first: Dobbs would be best served to land with a team who is led by a veteran quarterback. Somewhere where he can sit for a year or two, learn from the best, and develop in the passing game would be ideal. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are nearing the end of their careers. Who better to learn from than a future Hall of Famer? Dobbs’ classy personality would be an excellent fit for two of the best organizations in all of sports.
After not having a true quarterbacks coach in Knoxville for much of his career, it would serve Dobbs best to land with a team whose coach has an offensive background. The Arizona Cardinals and Bruce Arians fit that bill perfectly. Arians has a fantastic track record when it comes to developing quarterbacks. He played an instrumental role in the development of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, and Roethlisberger. Expect Dobbs to sneak his way into the second round of the draft as NFL teams continue to fall in love with Tennessee’s former quarterback.
Best fits – Titans, Buccaneers
After leading Tennessee in receiving yards, Malone declared for the draft following his junior campaign. Many are overlooking Malone, but his size and speed allow him to be a big target down the field for quarterbacks. Along with blowing the tops off of defenses on deep routes, Malone is also exceptional at making plays on shorter routes. If Malone can take his route running to the next level, there’s no reason he can’t be a starter in the NFL for a long time.
Who has young gunslingers and no vertical threats at wide receivers? That would be the in-state Titans, as well as the Buccaneers. Malone would be a fantastic deep threat on the other side of Mike Evans in Tampa Bay or Tajae Sharp in Nashville. Expect Malone to come off the board in the fourth or fifth round.
Best fits – Steelers, Chiefs, 49ers, Falcons
Sutton enters the NFL as a corner, but don’t be surprised if he ends up at safety. Thanks to his versatility, teams are falling in love with the former Tennessee defensive back.
The Chiefs, Steelers, 49ers, and Falcons are all in a situation where they would be wise to upgrade the defensive back position. Sutton carries himself like a pro in everything he does, and would can provide an instant impact. The Georgia native is an elite athlete, has great football instincts, and has excellent football IQ. Sutton also excelled as a punt returner in college, making him even more valuable to teams. Expect him to be drafted anywhere from the third to the fifth round.
Best fits – Dolphins, Raiders, Redskins, Lions
Reeves-Maybin decided to return for his senior season in Knoxville, but things didn’t go to plan. The Tennessee native missed almost all of the season due to a shoulder injury, and because of it, NFL teams are nervous to draft him. General managers and team executives love his football IQ and production, but because of his injury history, many question just how effective he’ll be in the NFL.
Reeves-Maybin is a tackle machine, and, if healthy, could provide a spark to a team that doesn’t tackle well. His speed and play recognition allowed him to lead Tennessee in tackles in 2014 and 2015. Reeves-Maybin is also an excellent special teams player, which would help him carve out a name for himself in the league.
Edited by Robert Hughes
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics