Lost weekend?

Most analysts believe the 2008 NFL Draft, scheduled today and Sunday in New York City, will be a lost weekend for former University of Tennessee players.

The projections of collegefootballnews.com writer Pete Fiutak basically reflect as much. He predicts that only four ex-Vols will be selected in the seven-round draft.

Fiutak is one of the few experts who do NOT project former UT linebacker Jerod Mayo to be a first-round pick. Fiutak ranks Mayo No. 3 among this year's linebackers but sees him lasting until Round 2 of the draft.

Whereas most analysts see Eric Young going in Round 6 to 7 if at all, Fiutak ranks the former Vol No. 5 among all guard prospects and predicts he'll come off the board in Round 3.

Like most draft analysts, Fiutak has jumped on the Brad Cottam bandwagon. The 6-7, 270-pound former Vol missed nine games of his senior season with a fractured wrist, yet he is ranked No. 7 among tight end prospects and projected as a third-round draft pick by Fiutak.

Erik Ainge ranks No. 8 on Fiutak's list of quarterback prospects and is projected to be selected in Round 4 or Round 5.

Fiutak ranks Chris Brown No. 22 among tight end prospects but does not project the ex-Vol as a likely draftee. The analyst lists ex-Vol Jonathan Hefney No. 31 among cornerbacks but does not see him being selected, either. Former Vols Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds are not listed among the 35 defensive end prospects, and Ryan Karl is nowhere to be found among the top 50 linebacker prospects.

What follows are Fiutak's comments on the four Vols he believes will be drafted this weekend:


3. Jerod Mayo, OLB/ILB Tennessee

One of the high risers among scouting circles, everyone came late to the party; this guy was one of the SEC's best players for a few years even with his knee problems. While he looks more like a pumped up safety than a thick, blow-'em-up linebacker, he's a great tackler who can play inside and out in any system. He makes a lot of mistakes, but they're usually errors coming from trying too hard. He needs to be on the outside to be a star, and both will happen.

CFN Projection: Second Round


5. Eric Young OG Tennessee

There are a world of problems. He never played up to his talent level, hurt his leg last year and played in just eight games, and he isn't nearly as physical as he should've been on a consistent basis. Even so, he has too many tools not to be a starter at some point if only because he has more skill and talent than roughly 80% of current starting NFL guards. If he actually wants to be good, and if he plays for the right coach who can turn the switch on, he'll be the second best guard in the draft behind Branden Albert. That's a big if.

CFN Projection: Third Round

7. Brad Cottam, TE Tennessee

At 6-7 and 270 pounds with not-that-bad speed, he has the size and the skills to get offensive coordinators excited about matchup possibilities. A bit of an afterthought after suffering a broken wrist last season, he emerged as an "it" prospect after a good Senior Bowl and excellent Combine. He's still a bit of a project, but receivers his size are rare.

CFN Projection: Third Round


8. Erik Ainge, QB Tennessee

Think a less awkward Bernie Kosar. While he doesn't have the rocket arm the NFL types would like and he's not mechanically sound enough to be a star, he could be the type of backup quarterback who sits on a bench for two years, comes in and has a huge four game stretch, and then cashes in on the free agent market. No, he's not going to throw a pea through a cement wall like a Joe Flacco, but he proved at Tennessee under offensive coordinator David Cutliffe that he could get the ball in a position for his receivers to do big things. He had a great receiving corps as a junior and was fantastic. He had a developing, young receiving corps as a senior and he was even better. He makes his receivers look better than they actually are.

CFN Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round

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