By Josh Ward
The 2023 NFL Draft came and went with five Tennessee players selected.
That’s two straight years the Vols have had five players drafted – the first time Tennessee has had five-plus selections in consecutive drafts since 2006-07.
In each draft, Tennessee had a player make a big leap to become a pro prospect.
In last year’s draft, Theo Jackson took advantage of a fifth season to make his way into the draft. This year, Jalin Hyatt saw his stock skyrocket after winning the Biletnikoff Award.
Over the next few days, you’ll see plenty of way-too-early mock drafts for 2024. It’s never too soon to look ahead, right?
Here’s our best guess at five Tennessee players with the best chance of being drafted next spring.
QB Joe Milton III
Milton still has plenty to prove as Tennessee’s starting quarterback.
But there’s no denying his skillset.
A productive senior season will cause NFL teams to consider Milton’s upside at the next level.
He already has their attention thanks to his size, arm strength, and athleticism.
ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic said on WNML that NFL teams were so intrigued by the idea of Milton throwing at this year’s Pro Day that head coach Josh Heupel shut it down so Milton wouldn’t take attention away from this year’s prospects.
Milton is a Day One draft prospect for 2024.
DL Omari Thomas
Thomas has everything an NFL team covets.
He has size (6-4, 320), athleticism, play-making ability, and leadership qualities.
Thomas emerged as an important defender in 2022, starting every game and showing the ability to disrupt from the interior of the line.
Thomas’s development during his first three years has shown what he’s capable of. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner will help Thomas take the next step.
Thomas will prove to be an important defender for the Vols’ defense this fall.
NFL teams will take notice.
WR Bru McCoy
McCoy is a former five-star prospect who showed his ability to make tough catches for Tennessee last fall.
McCoy’s highlight tape should lead with these two plays: his touchdown catch to end the first half against Florida and the catch that setup Tennessee’s game-winning field goal against Alabama.
NFL teams will ask questions about McCoy’s off-field past and injury history.
But another productive season in Tennessee’s offense — combined with his athletic ability — will make McCoy an attractive NFL prospect.
LB Aaron Beasley
Beasley is this year’s “make a leap” candidate after the way he performed last fall.
Beasley was unstoppable in Tennessee’s Orange Bowl win over Clemson.
He led Tennessee with 12 tackles and four tackles for loss. If not for Milton’s performance, Beasley would have made a strong case to be Orange Bowl MVP.
Beasley will have a chance to lead Tennessee’s defense this fall.
That should land him all-star game and NFL Combine opportunities.
Beasley has a big opportunity ahead of him in his final season at Tennessee.
C Cooper Mays
Mays is one of the most important players on Tennessee’s football team.
He was one of the top snubs in All-SEC voting last fall and will be one of the top contenders for that honor in 2023.
NFL teams will see how Mays has helped anchor Tennessee’s offensive line for multiple seasons.
Offensive line coach Glen Elarbee has been a key member of Tennessee’s staff by developing guys up front.
Mays ranks high on that list.
He’s a smart player with good size for his position. That’s what NFL teams will look for in a center.
Mays’s position doesn’t get the same recognition as other positions on offense.
But the value of a strong center can’t be overstated.
Another good season for Mays at Tennessee will help him shine on the NFL radar.