More draftees = more wins

The formula seems simple enough: The more quality players you have, the more games you win ... and the more guys you have drafted by the NFL.

Just ask former Tennessee head man Phillip Fulmer.

Fulmer cranked out 49 NFL Draft picks during the seven-year stretch from 1995 through 2001, including nine first-rounders and nine second-rounders. His record during that time was 73-14, good for an eye-popping 83.9 winning percentage.

He produced just 31 NFL draftees over the next seven years (2002-2008), however, including five first-rounders and two second-rounders. His record during this stretch was 57-32, good for a mere 64.0 winning percentage. Once the toast of Big Orange Country, he now was merely toast.

Fulmer's crowning achievement was the 1998 team that went 13-0 and won the national title. Six players off of that team were drafted the following spring and 12 more '98 starters – Tee Martin, Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, Cosey Coleman, Chad Clifton, Cedrick Wilson, Shaun Ellis, Darwin Walker, Eric Westmoreland, Raynoch Thompson, Dwayne Goodrich and Deon Grant – would be chosen in the next two drafts.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Not every quality football team is stocked with future NFL draftees. For instance:

Sometimes a team's nucleus is in its sophomore and junior classes, resulting in a great record but few draftees. This was the case at Tennessee in 1992 and 1996.

The '92 team went 10-3 but had just two players drafted. The reason: Heath Shuler, Charlie Garner, Bubba Miller, Jeff Smith, Cory Fleming, James Wilson, Ben Talley and DeRon Jenkins were underclassmen on that team who would be drafted a year or two later.

The '96 season presented the same situation. That team achieved a 10-2 record but had just three guys drafted because most of the key players – Peyton Manning, Trey Teague, Chad Clifton, Marcus Nash, Leonard Little, Jonathan Brown, Al Wilson and Terry Fair – were underclassmen. Manning, Nash and Fair would be first-round picks in the '98 draft, with Wilson going in Round 1 a year later.

Sometimes a team wins big with a cast of scrappy overachievers – guys with more will than NFL-level skill. This was the case at Tennessee in 1985 and 2004.

The '85 Vols went 9-1-2 en route to an SEC title and No. 4 national ranking, yet had just three players drafted the following spring. Somehow that team allowed just 11.7 points per game – lowest total of the past 35 years – even though only one first-team defender was ever drafted (Round 10 pick Dale Jones).

The '04 Vols also posted a fine record (10-3) thanks to an opportunistic offense and a stingy defense. Only three players would be drafted the following spring but the 2004 defense was built around future NFL picks Justin Harrell (Round 1), Jason Allen (Round 1), Parys Haralson (Round 5), Jesse Mahelona (Round 5), Omar Gaither (Round 5) and Jason Mitchell (Round 7).

Still, these seasons were noteworthy exceptions. In general, Tennessee's most successful seasons produce the most draftees and Tennessee's least successful seasons produce the least draftees. Here are some obvious examples:

- The 1983 Vols went 9-3 and had seven players drafted, including two in Round 1.

- The 1987 Vols went 10-2-1 and had six players drafted, including two in Round 1.

- The 1989 Vols went 11-1 and had six players drafted.

- The 1990 Vols went 9-2-2 and had nine players drafted, including three in Round 1.

- The 1991 Vols went 9-3 and had nine players drafted, including two in Round 1.

- The 1995 Vols went 11-1 and had eight players drafted.

- The 1997 Vols went 11-2 and had eight players drafted, including three in Round 1.

- The 2001 Vols went 11-2 and had 10 players drafted, including three in Round 1.

- The 1978 Vols went 5-5-1 and had just three players drafted.

- The 1979 Vols went 7-5 and had just two players drafted.

- The 1988 Vols went 5-6 and had just two players drafted.

- The 2008 Vols went 5-7 and had just one player drafted.

What follows is a look at every season record under the last two head coaches, John Majors (1977-1992) and Phillip Fulmer (1993-2008). The number of draft picks off each team is in parenthesis, followed by the rounds those players were picked.

1977: 4-7-0 (5) Rounds 3, 8, 9, 10, 11

1978: 5-5-1 (3) Rounds 1, 3, 12

1979: 7-5-0 (2) Rounds 1 and 3

1980: 5-6-0 (5) Rounds 3, 5, 7, 10, 12

1981: 8-4-0 (4) Rounds 1, 4, 6, 10

1982: 6-5-1 (5) Rounds 1, 2, 3, 4, 11

1983: 9-3-0 (7) Rounds 1, 1, 4, 6, 10, 12, 12

1984: 7-4-1 (7) Rounds 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12

1985: 9-1-2 (5) Rounds 1, 6, 7, 7, 8

1986: 7-5-0 (4) Rounds 2, 9, 10, 11

1987: 10-2-1 (6) Rounds 1, 1, 4, 5, 8, 9

1988: 5-6-0 (2) Rounds 1, 6

1989: 11-1-0 (6) Rounds 2, 3, 4, 7, 7, 8

1990: 9-2-2 (9) Rounds 1, 1, 1, 3, 5, 5, 8, 10, 11

1991: 9-3-0 (9) Rounds 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 9, 9, 10

1992: 9-3-0 (2) Rounds 1, 8

1993: 10-2-0 (5) Rounds 1, 2, 3, 3, 5

1994: 8-4-0 (6) Rounds 1, 2, 4, 4, 6, 7

1995: 11-1-0 (8) Rounds 2, 2, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7

1996: 10-2-0 (3) Rounds 2, 3, 5

1997: 11-2-0 (8) Rounds 1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 7, 7, 7

1998: 13-0-0 (6) Rounds 1, 2, 3, 6, 6, 7

1999: 9-3-0 (9) Rounds 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 5

2000: 8-4-0 (5) Rounds 2, 3, 5, 6, 6

2001: 11-2-0 (10) Rounds 1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7

2002: 8-5-0 (8) Rounds 2, 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 6, 7

2003: 10-3-0 (4) Rounds 5, 6, 7, 7

2004: 10-3-0 (3) Rounds 2, 3, 6

2005: 5-6-0 (6) Rounds 1, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7

2006: 9-4-0 (6) Rounds 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 7

2007: 10-4-0 (3) Round 1, 3, 5

2008: 5-7-0 (1) Round 1


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