With the NFL Draft starting tonight, fans all over the country are patiently waiting to see if players from their school will be drafted into the NFL.
Tennessee fans are surely no different. There are three former Volunteers of note looking to be drafted into the NFL this week; Rashaan Gaulden, John Kelly, and Kahlil McKenzie. We’ll dive in and look at possible landing spots, draft positions, and consider best and worst case scenarios for each of them.
— Rashaan Gaulden (@Gmoney_7era) April 26, 2018
The former Tennessee cornerback peaked in his last few seasons in Knoxville. Most know him as the guy that flipped the double birds to Alabama fans when Tennessee played them this past season, but Gaulden should be remembered for much more than that. An excellent nickelback, Gaulden is also flexible and athletic enough to play cornerback and safety. Most NFL teams struggle to find physical, versatile defensive backs that can do almost anything asked of them, which is good news for Gaulden.
His versatility and nose for the football are his biggest strengths.
Most mock drafts and experts project that Gaulden will go somewhere in the 4th or 5th round. Considering about half the league will be considering defensive backs somewhere in that range, that’s probably about right. Look for a team like the Bengals, Browns, or Redskins that are desperate for versatile defensive backs to pick him up in the mid-to-late 4th round.
Best-Case: Jacksonville Jaguars, Round 4, Pick 5
Worst-Case: LA Rams, Round 5, Pick 7
John Kelly's path to the 2018 NFL Draft pic.twitter.com/pfkb6jG4AJ
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 24, 2018
As the above graphic shows, John Kelly is one of the hottest running backs going in to this years draft. Most of his career numbers seem low because he was stuck behind 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. In his first year as a starter, he proved he belonged and that he could potentially be elite.
Kelly was one of the more violent runners in recent memory at Tennessee, regularly requiring two or three tacklers to bring him down. Combined with his ability to catch out of the backfield and pass block, Kelly is sure to make a roster and likely serve as a backup his first few years in the NFL.
This years draft is chock-full with running backs, so Kelly is likely to fall to the 4th or 5th round, although most years he would be considered as high as 3rd. Teams like the Bengals or Steelers who need a good second option at running back might take someone around the 4th or 5th round for that role. It’s also possible a team in need of a young feature back take him, such as the Lions or Raiders.
Best Case: Carolina Panthers, Round 3, Pick 24
Worst Case: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Round 4, Pick 16
Kahlil McKenzie Jr.
— Kahlil McKenzie Jr. (@Kahlil_Mckenzie) April 24, 2018
Of all the talented recruits to come through Tennessee the past few years, McKenzie was either the most disappointing or the most overrated. Possibly a combination of both. One thing is for sure though, McKenzie wants to make it in the NFL, and I’m sure most Vol fans do too.
McKenzie has the size and pedigree to play in the NFL, at the very least, on a practice squad. Injuries slowed him down in college, so if he can stay healthy, he could see some game-action. There are still more questions than answers at this point for Mckenzie, so he may have to fall back on connections to get drafted. Even if he isn’t drafted, he’ll likely find a team willing to take a chance on him as an undrafted free agent. He’ll most likely be taken, if at all, by the Raiders with their last pick in the draft.
Best Case: Houston Texans, Round 7, Pick 22
Worst Case: Undrafted
Other former Vols eligible for the draft:
Brett Kendrick, OL
Jashon Robertson, OL
Ethan Wolf, TE
Kendall Vickers, DT
Trevor Daniel, P
Evan Berry, DB/KR