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Tennessee football: Looking back on Vols’ five first-round picks in NFL Draft since Phillip Fulmer was fired

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If Darnell Wright or Hendon Hooker is taken in the NFL Draft Thursday night, it will mark the first time since the 2017 NFL Draft that Tennessee football had a player go in the first round. There have been five since Phillip Fulmer was fired. Robert Ayers would be a sixth, but he went in 2009, the year after Fulmer was fired, so he didn’t play for any other coach. Here are the other five.

Derek Barnett – 2017

Philadelphia Eagles

This was by far the deepest draft for Tennessee football in the post-Fulmer era, with six players taken in the first three rounds, but it was on the heels of an underachieving 9-4 team. Derek Barnett, the school’s all-time career sacks leader, went to Philly with the 14th pick and won a Super Bowl with the game-clinching fumble recovery his first year. UT went 4-8 in 2017, and Jones was fired.

Ja’Wuan James – 2014

Miami Dolphins

Three years before Barnett was picked, Jones still had momentum as a coach for the Vols. However, he did go 5-7 in 2013 and then dealt with a ton of attrition on the offensive line, losing Ja’Wuan James, Antonio Richardson and Zach Fulton. James was the standout of the group and went to Miami with the 19th pick. He has enjoyed a nine-year career with three teams to this point.

Cordarrelle Patterson – 2013

Minnesota Vikings

A junior college transfer whose sole year with Tennessee football was a major bright spot in a 5-7 season that saw Derek Dooley get fired in 2012, Cordarrelle Patterson went to the Minnesota Vikings with the 29th pick as a receiver and return specialist. He is still in the NFL and has enjoyed an All-Pro career and won a Super Bowl championship, playing as a returner, receiver and a running back.

Dan Williams – 2010

Arizona Cardinals

The NFL Draft after the first season without Phillip Fulmer is the last one to have multiple first-rounders, which is evident of the players Fulmer brought in. Dan Williams was a guy who thrived under John Chavis and Monte Kiffin at defensive tackle and went to the Arizona Cardinals with the 26th overall pick. He had a seven-year career in the pros, finishing his final two with the Oakland Raiders.

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Eric Berry – 2010

Kansas City Chiefs

Ever since Eric Berry went as the third pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, no Tennessee football player has gone nearly as high or enjoyed as successful of a pro career. The two-time All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner lived up to all the hype. Despite missing multiple seasons due to injury and having to take time away at one point due to lymphoma, Berry still had a 10-year career and was a five-time Pro Bowler.

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