A draftnik picks

The NFL Draft is a lot like National Signing Day … except nobody is verbally committed … and the Mississippi States and Kentuckys get first dibs on the talent instead of the Floridas and Georgias.

Just as National Signing Day is a time of excitement and optimism for college football teams, Draft Day offers a ray of hope and sunshine for NFL teams. Even if you went 2-14 the previous season, you can replenish your roster by drafting the very best college player in the land.

In case you haven't already guessed, I'm a card-carrying NFL Draft fanatic. I've looked at more mock drafts in the past month than I'd care to admit. That doesn't make an expert but it probably makes me more knowledgeable than the average fan.

That said, here are my picks for the eligible Tennessee Vols in this weekend's NFL Draft:

Round 1: Jason Allen (DB). He would be an early first-rounder if not for concerns about the hip he dislocated midway through 2005. Still, some NFL club will give him a call in Round 1 because there's always a run on DBs at the top of the draft.

Round 3: Parys Haralson (DE). He's the classic "tweener" – not quite big enough for defensive end and not quite agile enough for outside linebacker. He's a heck of a football player, though, and some team that finds a way to utilize his talents will hit the jackpot.

Round 3: Jesse Mahelona (DT), At 6-feet tall, he's a tad shorter than the NFL scouts like but he's quick and tenacious enough to offset his height. It all comes down to making plays, doesn't it?

Round 4: Omar Gaither (LB). NFL teams seem to be going more and more to linebackers who can neutralize West Coast offenses. Gaither's abilities in pass coverage should make him invaluable as a third-down ‘backer and eventually a starter.

Round 5: Tony McDaniel (DT). Tony did nothing at UT to warrant such a high selection but he's 6-6 and 300 pounds with excellent athleticism. Some NFL team will select him on upside alone.

Round 5: Rob Smith (G). He isn't as big as Georgia's Max Jean-Gilles (who is?) or as athletic as Oklahoma's Davin Joseph but Smith is smart, tough as nails and willing to play hurt. He's also versatile enough to fill in at center.

Round 5: Gerald Riggs (RB). Junior lacks the acceleration to be a speed back and the heft to be a power back. He's not truly exceptional at anything, really, but he has good bloodlines.

Round 7: Albert Toeaina (OT). Some run-oriented team that's looking for a road grader to play right tackle will give this massive ex-Vol a shot.

Round 7: Chris Hannon (WR). This may be the leanest year for wide receivers in history. That's why a 6-foot-3 underachiever with sub-4.4 speed warrants a look.

Round 7: Kevin Simon (LB). Yeah, he's too small and he has bad knees. But look what he did when he was healthy.

Round 7: Jason Hall (DE). He started just one year at UT but the pros are always looking for guys who can rush the passer.

Free agents: Cody Douglas (G), Jason Mitchell (LB), C.J. Fayton (WR).


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