Wideout trio set to depart

Tabbed high school All-Americans by various services, they comprised perhaps the most heralded trio of wide receiver signees in University of Tennessee history when they joined the program in the recruiting class of 2003.

Four years later, Robert Meachem (Tulsa, Okla.), Jayson Swain (Huntsville, Ala.) and Bret Smith (Warren, Ark.) will be departing as they came in ... together. Based on ESPN's 2007 NFL Draft Guide ($7.99 on newsstands), all three rank among the top 40 wideout prospects for this year's talent lottery, scheduled Saturday and Sunday in New York City.

The magazine ranks Meachem sixth among all draft-eligible receiver candidates – trailing Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson, Ohio State's Ted Ginn, Southern Cal's Dwayne Jarrett, LSU's Dwayne Bowe and South Carolina's Sidney Rice.

ESPN's Draft Guide rates Meachem a first-round pick. After calling him an "oustanding combination of size, wheels and athleticism," it adds that "With impressive initial burst, he consistently drives DBs off the line." He is downgraded a bit for his route-running, however, with the explanation: "Rounds off some routes and isn't always crisp getting in and out of his breaks.... Seems to struggle reading coverages and isn't always on the same page as his QB on option routes."

Swain is ranked No. 33 among draft-eligible wideouts and listed as a Round 7 pick. He is praised for "a nice blend of size and athleticism. Makes tough catches on the sideline and adjusts to passes thrown outside the window." He is downgraded, however, for his lack of speed. Specifically, the ESPN Draft Guide notes: "Poor second gear. Struggles for clean release against press coverage. He doesn't explode out of his cuts and is stiff when changing directions."

Smith is ranked No. 40 and lumped in a large group of wideouts called "Bargain Bin."

ESPN's Draft Guide ranks Arron Sears No. 2 among guard prospects behind Auburn's Ben Grubbs. The magazine notes that Sears has "impressive short-area quickness for such a wide body." However, the guide questions Sears' stamina and notes that he "must keep weight in check. He gets sluggish late in games and loses mobility."

The guide tabs Justin Harrell No. 4 among defensive tackle prospects, noting that he has "good initial quickness, consistently disrupts the run." His pass rush is panned, however, with the notation that he "seems to lack pass-rushing awareness and instincts. Must use hands better to get off blocks." Harrell is projected as a second-round draft pick.

Vol teammate Turk McBride is ranked No. 9 among defensive tackle prospects. ESPN's Draft Guide notes that he "flashes enough quickness and toughness to find NFL niche as a swingman who can play 4-3 DE then move inside to rush on obvious passing downs." He is downgraded, however, because he supposedly "lacks the bulk and lower-body strength to hold up as fulltime DT." He is projected as a third-round draft pick.

Another prospective third-rounder is Jonathan Wade, ranked No. 8 among cornerback prospects. He is characterized as a "tall, speedy cover corner with major upside. Turned on the light as a senior." Wade's weakness, according to the guide, is that he "opens hips too early and gets exposed by savvy WRs."

The ESPN Draft Guide tabs Cory Anderson No. 2 among fullbacks and projects him as a Round 6 pick. It calls him a "big lead blocker, reliable safety valve as a receiver." He is downgraded for his lack of agility, however, with the notation: "Offers little as runner and may benefit from shedding some weight to get quicker."

Marvin Mitchell is ranked No. 12 at inside linebacker and projected as a sixth-round draft pick. He is described as a guy who "plays with a mean streak, has decent upper-body strength and is big enough to hold ground vs. the run." The knock on Mitchell is that he "has limited range and struggles to change direction quickly."

David Ligon is ranked No. 14 among centers and lumped in the "Bargain Bin" category at the position.

Antwan Stewart is tabbed No. 35 among safety prospects and placed in the "Bargain Bin" at his position.


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