Ainge to be a Round 1 pick?

The passing statistics compiled by University of Tennessee junior quarterback Erik Ainge in 2006 measure up fairly well against those compiled by Big Orange predecessor Heath Shuler as a junior in 1993.

Shuler set UT's single-season record by completing 64.6 percent of his passes in '93 and totaled 2,353 passing yards. Ainge broke that completion percentage mark last fall, connecting on 67.0 percent and totaling 2,989 yards. Of course, Shuler had a better touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio (25 to 8 in '93, compared to Ainge's 19 to 9 in '06) and was considerably more mobile.

Since Shuler's 1993 numbers got him selected with the No. 3 pick in Round 1 of the 1994 NFL Draft, you wonder: Could Ainge qualify for selection in Round 1 next spring?

Not likely, according to Andrew Perloff. In a 2008 draft projection posted at the website, Perloff predicts that four college quarterbacks will be selected in Round 1. None of them is named Erik Ainge.

Perloff's projected first-round QBs are Brian Brohm of Louisville (pick 3), Chad Henne of Michigan (pick 6), John David Booty of Southern Cal (pick 23) and Colt Brennan of Hawaii (pick 31).

The guy against whom all Vol quarterbacks are measured, of course, is Peyton Manning. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes as a senior in 1997 for 3,819 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Months later he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

Perloff rates Arkansas running back Darren McFadden the No. 1 prospect for the 2008 NFL Draft, followed by Texas offensive tackle Jake Long (No. 2), Brohm (No. 3), Miami defensive end Calais Campbell (No. 4) and Southern Cal offensive tackle Sam Baker (No. 5).

Perloff's second five features Henne (No. 6), Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey (No. 7), Miami safety Kenny Phillips (No. 8), LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson (No. 9) and Texas wideout Limas Sweed (No. 10).

McFadden, Harvey and Jackson are among six Southeastern Conference players Perloff projects to go in Round 1. The others are LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (No. 14), LSU wideout Early Doucet (No. 18) and Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver (No. 19).

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