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Tennessee football: Vols have multiple 2023 first rounders, NFL Draft analyst says

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NFL draft analyst Mike DeTillier said three former Tennessee football players could be selected in the first round of the April NFL draft.

DeTillier ranks receiver Jalin Hyatt as his No. 24 prospect, quarterback Hendon Hooker at No. 30 and receiver Cedric Tillman at No. 32.

DeTillier touted the speed and big-play ability of Hyatt, the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver.

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“A lot of people don’t have him as a first-round pick,” DeTillier said. “I’ve had people ask, ‘Why you got him ranked that high?’ I’ve got him ranked that high because he’s that good. Have you been watching?”

Hyatt led the SEC in receptions (67), receiving yards (1,267) and touchdown catches (15). Against Alabama, he had six catches for 207 yards and an eye-popping five touchdowns as Nick Saban’s defense was no match for the slender wideout.

“Where he’s improved at most is route running,” DeTillier said.

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You could add to that catching the ball. Hyatt had several drops to open the 2021 season and lost his job in the slot to Velus Jones Jr.

Motivated by his benching, Hyatt caught thousands of balls on a jugs machine during the offseason and torched opponents with his blazing 4.33 speed.

“He caught the ball so clean, out front with his hands,” DeTillier said. “He’s a big-play athlete that can stretch the field.”

DeTillier said Hyatt (6-foot, 185 pounds) reminds him of former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who weighed 152 pounds entering his junior season of high school. Hyatt weighed about 164 pounds his senior season in high school.

Hyatt leap-frogged teammate Cedric Tillman as an NFL draft prospect. Tillman, who had a brilliant breakout junior season (64 catches, 1,081 yards, 12 touchdowns), suffered an early season ankle injury and never seemed to completely heal. He ended 2022 with 37 catches for 417 yards and three touchdowns.

At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Tillman has the size NFL teams seek.

“Workouts are going to be crucial for him,” DeTillier said. “He’s right on the border (of being a first rounder) for me.”

While DeTillier has Tillman ranked No. 32, the NFL has only 31 first-round picks this season because Miami was docked a first-round pick for tampering.  

DeTillier has former Tennessee football right tackle Darnell Wright ranked No. 41. Wright didn’t allow a sack his final 17 games at Tennessee. He has started at left tackle but is a more natural right tackle.

“He’s a power guy that can move people off the line of scrimmage,” DeTillier said. “He’s gotten much better as a pass protector. I like what I saw from his foot movement skills and his leverage.

“He’s a guy potentially – I’m telling you – who could end up in the late first round for a team looking for a tackle.”

DeTillier thinks former UT guard Jerome Carvin (6-5, 321) could be a mid-round pick.

“He’s a big guy and he plays on the left side,” DeTillier said. “There’s a lot of people that like Jerome,  really like him.”

DeTillier said linebacker Jeremy Banks could also be a middle-round pick but noted Banks has some baggage that needs to be resolved with NFL teams.

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