Burnett's Stock Stays Steady

Saturday's NFL Draft doesn't figure to be a big day for Tennessee, but it will be huge for Vol linebacker Kevin Burnett who continues to project as a solid second round pick and a sure thing for the first day of the Draft.

Burnett, who came to UT via California in the Class of 2000, is both deserving and due such good fortune. While at Tennessee he overcame a position change, shoulder injuries, season ending ACL surgery in the 2002 opener and a slow recovery in 2003.

The payoff came when Burnett elected to forego the 2004 Draft in favor of a fifth season at Tennessee. It proved a wise decision after he earned All-SEC honors with 120 tackles, including 90 solo stops. He finished his career with 274 tackles, 23 for loss, eight sacks, 10 hurries, three forced fumbles, three recoveries and one interception.

Although he never developed into that disruptive rush force from the edge many envisioned, he did become a rock-solid linebacker and a big-time hitter, who has a nose for the football. The pros like his intelligence — twice named to the SEC all-academic team — and his ability to play inside in a 3-4 scheme or outside in the 4-3.

Burnett has excellent size at 6-3, 235, but his 4.61 speed is no more than standard for his position. However, he compensates for a lack of explosiveness with good recognition skills and by taking sound angles to the football. When he gets to the ball he rarely fails to make the tackle and strikes with the type of upward motion that separates ball from carrier. Burnett also has exception strength and could thrive early in a special teams and reserve role.

He needs to work on better tracking receivers out of the backfield, but he's competent in drop coverage and reacts well to throws made in front of him. At times Burnett has problems shedding blockers, and yet, he fills the hole like a wrecking ball.

Philadelphia and New England are two teams known to be interested in acquiring Burnett.

While Burnett has remained a steady commodity, the news isn't as good with other former Vols. A history of injuries has dropped Michael Munoz's stock, and Jason Respert, Tony Brown and Cedric Houston project as late round possibilities. Jabari Davis and Derrick Tinsley will probably be signed as free agents. Dustin Colquitt figures to be the first punter taken and could go as high as round four.

Former Vols defensive tackle Lynn McGruder, who transferred to UNLV after his freshman year at UT, is expected to be drafted in the first five rounds. Auburn backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams are expected to be the first two running backs selected in Saturday's Draft, while Georgia's David Pollack and LSU's Marcus Spears are rated the top two defensive ends available. South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson projects as a first round pick as does Auburn corner Carlos Rogers and Georgia strong safety Thomas Davis. Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell and Arkansas quarterback Matt   Jones could also crash the first round, although Jones will be taken as a receiver. Mississippi offensive lineman Marcus Johnson has a chance to sneak in as a late first round pick.

Overall it looks like a very good day for the SEC, and Kevin Burnett.

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