The Vols were better represented than they have been in years at the 2023 NFL Draft Combine. Tennessee football sent seven players. Here is a look at who did themselves favors and who hurt their stock from the event.
Tennessee football NFL Combine Winners
By far the biggest winner from Rocky Top, Byron Young’s 4.43 40-yard dash has turned him into a highly touted edge rusher. He’s still relatively raw, but he proved he could produce last year, and with this speed, he’s now a scout’s dream.
While Byron Young exceeded expectations greater than any Tennessee football player at the combine, Darnell Wright met his expectations…and those were hard to do. Wright’s hype was growing entering the combine, and he lived up to it with a 5.01 40-time, great for a guy at 333 pounds, and he had the third best broad jump among linemen. At 6’5″, he looks even more like a first rounder.
Coming off an ankle injury, we didn’t know what to expect from Cedric Tillman. As a pure technical receiver, he’s already there. The combine alleviated concerns about his measurables. At 6’3″ 213 pounds, Tillman ran a 4.54 40. His 37-inch vertical and 10’8″ broad jump are enough to get him into maybe the third round.
Given his season-ending injury, it didn’t seem like Hendon Hooker would be able to do much for himself at the combine. However, medical reports suggest he will be 100 percent healthy when training camp arrives, and honestly, his intangibles alone may have pushed him up. It’s likely he was great in interviews, and you are hearing tons of praise about his maturity. That makes him a winner.
Similar to Hooker, Paxton Brooks couldn’t do much for himself at the NFL combine. Being there as a punter was a win alone. However, he had the biggest arms and second biggest hands among punters, so that has to count for something, and there were directional punts as part of the drills, and that’s his strength, so it had to help.
Tennessee football NFL Combine Losers
With limited route-running while playing for Tennessee football in Josh Heupel’s system and a lack of size to prove he can win 50-50 balls, Jalin Hyatt’s selling point was his speed. He clocked in a 4.40 40-yard dash, and honestly, that wasn’t good enough. He needs to have blazing speed no other receiver had. Not having that will turn some scouts away.
Intangibles already work against Jeremy Banks. He has been arrested, kicked off the team and started a fight with Hendon Hooker that resulted in Tennessee football losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks last year. Measurables would have to save him. At 6’1″ 232 pounds, though, he came in smaller than the average linebacker. As a result, he’s got nothing going for him now, and he may fall out of the draft.