Round 1: With 2017 NFL Draft commencing in Philadelphia on Thursday night, another class of Tennessee Volunteers will join the big leagues. As expected, Derek Barnett was the highest-drafted former Tennessee player. The Tennessee all-time career sacks leader was chosen 14th overall to the hometown Philadelphia Eagles. Not only did Barnett break Reggie White’s career sack record while at Tennessee, but Barnett will begin his NFL career on the same team White began his NFL career, the Eagles.
Prior to the draft, Derek Barnett was asked on the red carpet about the warm welcome that Eagles fans were showing him, Barnett replied saying, “I think the Eagles fans here want me for their team.” The Eagles fans will get just what they wanted in the All-American defensive end. Barnett addressed the media following his appearance on the draft stage. Barnett said “I want to have some (Super Bowl) rings on my fingers when I’m done playing. That’s why I play football.” Barnett also described what it felt like to be drafted by the Eagles saying, “It was like a surreal moment.” Barnett also believes playing in Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme will fit him well, as he said “I love it. That’s my style and I fit it very well.”
Derek Barnett joins a prestigious group of former Tennessee Volunteers’ players to be drafted into the NFL. Tennessee now has 45 players that have been drafted in the first round over the years.
Round 2-3: With Derek Barnett being the only former Tennessee player to be drafted in the first round, the focus moved towards the second and third rounds to take place on Friday night. The crowd in Philadelphia proved to be another spirited group on Friday, with a crowd of at least 75,000. Surprisingly, no Tennessee players were drafted in the second round. Shortly into the third round the New Orleans Saints were on the clock, and looking to boost their elite backfield. The Saints looked no further than former Tennessee Vol running back Alvin Kamara. The Saints selected Kamara with their 67th overall pick. Picking up Kamara in the 3rd round is a huge steal for New Orleans, considering Kamara’s stellar performance at the NFL Combine in March. Alvin Kamara will join current Saints running backs Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram.
Alvin Kamara wasn’t the only former Volunteer drafted on Friday night. With the 94th overall selection, and the 30th in the 3rd round, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Tennessee standout cornerback Cameron Sutton. Sutton made 127 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 7 interceptions during his time at Tennessee. Sutton fits Pittsburgh’s tough style of play and will add a serious threat to the Steelers secondary. Cam Sutton is the first cornerback from Tennessee to be drafted since Jonathan Wade in 2007.
Round 4-7: Saturday, the final day of the draft, proved to be a good one for UT fans. Three more former Tennessee players were drafted, all in round 4. During the first round of the day, former Vols’ linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was selected 124th overall by the Detroit Lions. Shortly after Reeves-Maybin was selected, wide receiver Josh Malone was selected 128th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. The final former Vol selected in the draft may have been the one of most interest for Vols fans. Former Tennessee standout at quarterback Josh Dobbs was selected 135th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dobbs joins fellow Volunteer Cam Sutton as the two Vols selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dobbs tweeted in response to a tweet from current Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger following the draft by saying “Happy to join the Steelers family and can’t wait to learn everything I can from a future Hall of Famer.”
Five other undrafted players from Tennessee will be attending NFL camps this offseason. Jason Croom will be with the Buffalo Bills. Malik Foreman will be with the Houston Texans. Latroy Lewis and Dylan Weisman will be with the Oakland Raiders, and Corey Vereen will be with the New England Patriots.
In total, Tennessee had six players drafted during the 2017 NFL Draft, Derek Barnett (Eagles), Alvin Kamara (Saints), Cam Sutton (Steelers), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Lions), Josh Malone (Bengals), and Josh Dobbs (Steelers). All six Tennessee selections came before or during the 4th round of the draft. After the 2017 draft, Tennessee has had a total of 342 players drafted to the NFL. Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, who went 14th overall to the Eagles, is the highest drafted defender from Tennessee since Eric Berry, a 5-time pro-bowler. Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs, who went 135th overall the Steelers, is the highest drafted quarterback from Tennessee since future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. Tennessee’s six players drafted are 8th best among colleges. Tennessee also had a player drafted (Derek Barnett at 14th overall) before Michigan or Alabama had a player drafted. Michigan and Alabama are first and second in number of players drafted with 11 and 10, respectively. Tennessee’s six players drafted also marks the first time since 2010 the Vols have had that many players drafted. The 2010 draft class also featured the previously mentioned pro-bowler Eric Berry.
Overall, this was an outstanding draft for former Tennessee players, and Vols fans should be excited to watch their favorite players play in the NFL.