The last time UT had just three players drafted by the NFL was 1997, when receiver Joey Kent, tailback Jay Graham and safety Ray Austin were taken in Rounds 2, 3 and 5, respectively.
Four-year starting offensive tackle Michael Munoz, projected as a possible second-round pick, was not drafted last weekend. Nor was center Jason Respert, wide receiver Tony Brown, wide receiver Derrick Tinsley or defensive end Karlton Neal. Brown (Bills), Neal (Titans) and Tinsley (Falcons) have signed free-agent contracts. Munoz and Respert are still negotiating with NFL teams.
On a positive note, Tennessee's Draft drought should end next spring. Barring injury, defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona is a sure-fire first-round pick, and cornerback Jason Allen has first-round potential. Rising seniors Gerald Riggs (tailback), Cody Douglas (guard), Albert Toeaina (tackle) and Parys Haralson (defensive end) could be first-day Draft picks. In addition, inebackers Kevin Simon, Jason Mitchell and Omar Gaither have NFL potential, as do wideouts Chris Hannon and C.J. Fayton.
Obviously, a lot of great college football players don't project to become great pros. They're a step slow or a couple of inches short or a few pounds lighter than NFL general managers prefer. Still, Tennessee's failure to produce a first-round NFL draft pick the past three years suggests the Vols' overall talent level during that time slipped a bit. Consider the first-round picks produced by other SEC schools the past two years alone:
AUBURN (4): RB Ronnie Brown, RB Cadillac Williams, DB Carlos Rogers, QB Jason Campbell in 2005
GEORGIA (3): TE Ben Watson in 2004, S Thomas Davis, DE David Pollack in 2005
ARKANSAS (3): OL Shawn Andrews and DB Ahmad Carroll in 2004, WR Matt Jones in 2005
LSU (2): WR Michael Clayton in 2004, DE Marcus Spears in 2005
OLE MISS (2): QB Eli Manning in 2004, C Chris Spencer in 2005
SOUTH CAROLINA (2): DB Dunta Robinson in 2004, WR Troy Williamson in 2005
Like Tennessee, the University of Florida didn't produce a first-round pick in 2004 or 2005. However, the Gators produced two second-round picks in 2004 (TE Ben Troupe, DB Keiwan Ratliff), two third-round picks in 2004 (OT Max Starks, S Guss Scott) and a third-round pick in 2005 (LB Channing Crowder) who had been projected as a possible first-rounder.