KNOXVILLE – Tennessee’s explosive offense from 2012 will have several individuals rewarded this weekend at the NFL Draft.
As many as six offensive players from UT could be selected over the next three days in New York City. Four – receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, receiver Justin Hunter, quarterback Tyler Bray and offensive lineman Dallas Thomas – have at least a shot at being picked in the first few rounds.
Tight end Mychal Rivera and receiver Zach Rogers will likely have to wait until the middle or later rounds to find out if they’re selected.
Others such as defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore, linebacker Herman Lathers, fullback/tight end Ben Bartholomew aren’t projected as picks in the seven-round draft, but could sneak in late or will be picked up as undrafted free agents.
The action starts Thursday night with Round 1 at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds 2-3 will begin on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET and Rounds 4-7 will begin Saturday at noon. All coverage will be on ESPN.
Tennessee draft preview:
WR Cordarrelle Patterson (6-2, 216 pounds)
Outlook: Viewed as one of the most overall explosive athletes available in the draft, Patterson has a good chance to go in the first round. The main questions have revolved around his overall route-running ability and his ability to grasp an NFL offense. His value as a return man and as a playmaker with the ball in his hands makes it unlikely that he falls out of the first round. He could even be a surprise top-15 pick.
Best guess: St. Louis Rams (Round 1, Pick 22)
WR Justin Hunter (6-4, 196 pounds)
Outlook: Another freak athlete who has the natural ability of a top-10 pick. Questions about his size, toughness and hands will likely drop him to the bottom of the first round or possibility into the early second. His long strides and ability to out-jump even the most athletic NFL defenders makes him an intriguing prospect who won’t fall too far.
Best guess: Houston Texans (Round 1, Pick 27)
QB Tyler Bray (6-6, 232 pounds)
Outlook: Has the size and arm strength of a top NFL quarterback prospect. Questions about his overall leadership ability and his proficiency in reading defenses bump him down to at least the second tier of quarterbacks available this year. Still, his overall ability will intrigue some team in need of a future quarterback within the first few rounds. He could go as high as the second or perhaps slip into the third or even the fourth round.
Best guess: Oakland Raiders (Round 3, Pick 66)
OL Dallas Thomas (6-5, 306)
Outlook: Thomas got better every season in Knoxville and after playing both guard and tackle in college, his draft stock rose significantly during his final season. He’s not the most athletic option out there, but he would be a good value pick for a team looking for a player who could start at guard and be available as a backup tackle as well.
Best guess: New York Giants (Round 3, Pick 81)
TE Mychal Rivera (6-3, 242)
Outlook: Though not the biggest, fastest or the most physical tight end option in the draft, Rivera made enough plays at UT to be considered as a mid-to-late round pick. He’s an adequate blocker, though he won’t overpower too many defensive linemen. He’s best used as a route-running tight end who can split out in the slot and create potential mismatches.
Best guess: Baltimore Ravens (Round 6, Pick 205)
WR Zach Rogers (6-0, 182)
Outlook: Once a somewhat forgotten man in the receiver rotation at Tennessee, Rogers had an impressive senior season with 32 catches for 491 yards and seven touchdowns. He ran in the 4.4s at UT’s pro day and, despite a lack of ideal size, has a decent chance to be picked up late in the draft.
Best guess: New England Patriots (Round 7, Pick 235)
Other potential late-round picks or undrafted free agents from UT: TE/FB Ben Bartholomew, DL Darrington Sentimore, LB Herman Lathers, DB Prentiss Waggner, CB Marsalis Teague, DE/LB Willie Bohannon
Former Vols likely to be drafted: WR Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech).3rd-5th round; DT Montori Hughes (UT-Martin).3rd-5th round
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga