KNOXVILLE – After three former Vols – Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Dallas Thomas – were selected in the first three rounds, the momentum slowed on Saturday as rounds 4-7 elapsed.
Tight end Mychal Rivera (6th Round, No. 184, Oakland Raiders) was the only Vol on the 2012 team selected Saturday, while quarterback Tyler Bray, projected as high as a third-round pick by many draft analysts, didn’t hear his name called.
Bray then reportedly settled for a deal as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs shortly after the draft concluded.
Originally a native of Valencia, Cal., Rivera will return to his home state when he joins the Raiders. He was selected by Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie, a former UT player himself, who travelled to Knoxville in March to watch Rivera work at UT’s Pro Day.
“I actually talked to [McKenzie] after my bench press because I had increased my bench press [225 pounds] from 17 reps to 21 and I had talked to him after that. I was just letting him know I wasn’t a weak player,” Rivera said. “He kind of laughed with me, we kind of shared some laughs and some jokes. He’s a really cool guy and I’m just really happy to play for a guy like that.”
Rivera, who finished his UT career with 76 receptions for 1,018 yards and six touchdowns, will compete for a roster spot with veterans David Ausberry, Richard Gordon and Mickey Shuler along with fellow sixth-round pick Nick Kasa out of Colorado. None of the tight ends currently on the Raiders have substantial NFL experience. NFL teams generally keep three tight ends on the active roster.
For Bray, Saturday marked an end to his chance at being drafted after opting to leave Tennessee after his junior season. The Kingsburg, Cal., native took over as UT’s starting quarterback as a true freshman in 2010 and energized a struggling offense.
He was off to a hot start in 2011 before a broken thumb sidelined him for a significant chunk of the season. He rebounded in 2012 to throw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns as part of UT’s highly-ranked offense.
Viewed as one of the most physically-gifted quarterbacks available in the draft, Bray likely slipped due to concerns about his leadership ability and his cognitive skills as a quarterback. Eleven total quarterbacks were selected in the 2013 draft.
In Kansas City, Bray will compete with Chase Daniel and Ricky Stanzi for a roster spot and the right to back up newly-acquired starting quarterback Alex Smith.
Other UT draft notes:
• Former wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, who finished his career at Tennessee Tech after being dismissed from UT last August, was not selected and has reportedly signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Buffalo Bills.
• Former defensive tackle Montori Hughes, who left UT in 2011 and finished his career at UT-Martin, was selected by the Colts in the fifth round with the 139th overall pick.
• Wide receiver Zach Rogers, fullback/tight end Ben Bartholomew and defensive back Prentiss Waggner all went undrafted, but signed free agent deals. Rogers is going to the New York Jets, Bartholomew signed with the New England Patriots and Waggner is headed to the Arizona Cardinals.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga