Another dud draft for UT

A Tennessee football program that produced three first-round NFL Draft picks in 2002 -- John Henderson, Donte' Stallworth and Albert Haynesworth -- hasn't produced one in the three years since.

What's more the number of Vols drafted in ANY round has dwindled noticeably during that time. Henderson, Stallworth and Haynesworth were among nine UT players tabbed in the '02 Draft. Eight Vols were picked in 2003, led by linebacker Eddie Moore in Round 2. Only four Vols were picked in 2004, led by safety Gibril Wilson in Round 5. A mere three Vols were selected in the 2005 Draft, and one of those was a specialist rather than a position player. Linebacker Kevin Burnett was picked by Dallas in Round 2, punter Dustin Colquitt in Round 3 by Kansas City and tailback Cedric Houston in Round 6 by the Jets.

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.

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