Cottam's got 'em

There's one simple key to understanding the NFL Draft scheduled this weekend in New York City: It's not what you've done that counts; it's what you MIGHT do.

That's why former Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam should know his pro football future by the time Round 3 of the seven-round draft ends around noon on Sunday. When it comes to drafting, potential routinely takes precedence over production.

Never mind that he was plagued by injuries throughout his collegiate career. Never mind that a fractured wrist limited him to just five games and five catches as a Vol senior last fall. Never mind that he made just 21 receptions in four years of college and didn't reel in a touchdown pass until his final game.

Remember: It's not what you've done that counts; it's what you MIGHT do. And Cottam, based on a 6-7, 270-pound frame and 4.6 speed over 40 yards, just might do incredible things in the NFL ... if he can stay healthy.

Obviously, many observers believe Cottam's upside far outweighs any concerns that might exist related to his injury history.

Steve Greenberg of rates Cottam the No. 2 tight end prospect in the entire draft, trailing only Texas A&M's Martellus Bennett. If just one bold NFL coach agrees, Cottam could be picked Saturday evening in Round 2. ranks the ex-Vol No. 68 on its list of the top 100 draft prospects. That equates to being an early third-round pick on Sunday morning.

Gil Brandt, the highly respected former player personnel director for the Dallas Cowboys, rates Cottam a "tier 8" prospect, meaning he should be selected between pick 71 and pick 80. That would be the middle of Round 3.

Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly gives Cottam a 3B rating, which suggests he will be drafted in the middle third of Round 3.

Since Pro Football Weekly's projections tend to be more accurate than most, here are its ratings for the other draft-eligible Vols:

- Linebacker Jerod Mayo gets a 1C ranking, meaning he should be picked in the final third of Round 1.

- Quarterback Erik Ainge gets a 5C ranking, meaning he should be selected in the last third of Round 5.

- Guard Eric Young gets a 6B ranking, which projects him to be selected in the middle third of Round 6.

- Safety Jonathan Hefney gets a 6C ranking, which equates to selection in the last third of Round 6.

Four more ex-Vols are draft-eligible – H-back Chris Brown, defensive end Xavier Mitchell, defensive end Antonio Reynolds and linebacker Ryan Karl – but PFW does not project any of them to be selected.

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