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Who does Tennessee C Cooper Mays expect to stand out in the 2024 NFL Draft?

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The 2024 NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 25th in Detroit, and this year’s talent pool is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. There are quite a few former Vols who are hoping for that life-changing call saying they have been selected by a pro team. On this week’s Vol Report, we asked center and current Vol Cooper Mays to discuss the VFLs who have the best chances of continuing their career in the NFL.  

The VFL who many analysts predict will draft early is running back Jaylen Wright. Wright had a phenomenal final season at Tennessee, rushing for over 1,000 yards with an average of 7.39 yards per carry. Mays agreed that Wright is something special and would be an asset for any NFL team. 

“He’s one of those guys…I knew it coming in,” Mays recalled. “Jay Wright’s the guy that was running. He’s one of those guys that you look at.  When you just look around, we’re all running, all doing the same stuff, but you look around and you’re like ‘holy crap’. This man looks like a prize horse. Like running in the Kentucky Derby. And then, you know, obviously he runs like 22 miles an hour. I don’t even know how people do that. But he does it.” 

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He only spent one year in Knoxville, but tight end transfer McCallan Castles left his mark on the team and Mays. Castles recorded 22 catches last season for 283 yards and five touchdowns.  

“(Castles is) a topflight athlete, topflight guy,” Mays said. “McCallan transferred in and was here for like one year… and was my locker mate. I’d see him every morning… just a great guy to be around. (He’s) one of the best pound for pound athletes on our team last year, one of the best pound for pound athletes I’ve probably been around.” 

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And of course, no 2024 draft discussion can leave out former Vol quarterback Joe Milton III. Many mock-drafts project Milton to go on day three. If he does, that would be back-to-back Tennessee QB drafts, following Hendon Hooker’s third-round pick in 2023. In his three seasons with the team, Milton threw for 4,159 yards – recording 32 touchdowns with only five interceptions. 

“Obviously everybody knows how hard he can throw, how far he can throw,” Mays said of Milton. “Kind of like (former Florida QB) Anthony Richardson in my eyes. To a certain degree. (He) goes out there and kills his combine… pro day and everything. Just crazy amount of potential he can do. He can do really great things.” 

But what about Mays himself? He could have foregone his last year of eligibility and declared for the draft this year, but as we know, has decided to play one more year at Tennessee. Watching his friends and former teammates prepare for the next step, does he have any regrets? The answer is no. 

“Personally, I’ve got so much stuff on my plate,” Mays said. “I can’t even begin to worry about something like that if I made a wrong decision or a right decision, you know. I’ve got so much ground to cover. We got so much stuff to do.”

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