Cornerback Coleman looks to keep Vols’ draft streak alive
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s streak of having at least one player selected in every NFL draft for the past half century could end this year.
Cornerback Justin Coleman is the Volunteers’ top pro prospect, and he is a projected late-round pick. Tennessee is attempting to avoid being shut out of the draft for the first time since 1963.
“I actually just heard that like a couple of weeks ago,” Coleman said Wednesday after Tennessee’s Pro Day event. “It would always be an honor if I was the one to continue that streak and get drafted. That would be pretty cool.”
The only schools with longer streaks of having at least one player drafted each year are Notre Dame, Michigan, Southern California, Michigan State, Florida and Nebraska, according to STATS.
This also could become the first year since the draft began in 1936 that neither of Tennessee’s two Southeastern Conference programs - Tennessee and Vanderbilt - had anyone selected. Coleman was the lone player from either team to participate in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, though Vanderbilt long snapper Andrew East was at the Senior Bowl.
The only years in which Tennessee hasn’t had a player drafted were 1938, 1960 and 1963. Vanderbilt had at least one player selected in each of those years.
Tennessee’s lack of prospects is unusual for a program that has produced nine first-round picks over the last nine drafts, but it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Tennessee played the most true freshmen of any Football Bowl Subdivision program last season. The Vols started only one senior on offense and two on defense in their TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa.
The Vols’ top senior for most of the season was linebacker A.J. Johnson, who got suspended from all team-related activities in November and was indicted last month on aggravated rape charges. Johnson didn’t participate in Tennessee’s Pro Day event, and his invitation to the combine was rescinded after news of his indictment came out.
So Coleman took center stage on Wednesday.
After intercepting four passes last season, Coleman boosted his draft stock with his performances in the East-West Shrine Game and the combine. Coleman leaped 37 inches in the vertical jump Wednesday, participated in the defensive back drills and was measured at 5-foot-10 ¾ and 198 pounds.
“I would expect (it would be) day three - rounds four through seven - before his name is called, but I think he has an excellent opportunity to make someone’s team and be productive for them,” said Charles Davis, an analyst for NFL Network.
During a teleconference after the combine, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Coleman “could end up being a fifth- to seventh-round pick” and envisioned him as a potential fourth or fifth cornerback on a team’s roster.
This year, some of the Volunteer State’s most notable draft prospects come from Football Championship Subdivision programs.
Davis said Chattanooga defensive tackle Derrick Lott - a Georgia transfer - has a good chance of becoming the first player from a Tennessee school to get drafted. Davis said that “when you talk with different people, Lott’s name keeps coming up more and more.”
“On day two, which is rounds two and three, my ears would be perking up looking for him starting there,” Davis said. “He could very well get to day three.”
Other potential draft picks from Tennessee’s FCS schools include Chattanooga outside linebacker Davis Tull and Tennessee State offensive guard Robert “Snacks” Myers. Both participated in the combine along with Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain, Memphis defensive end Martin Ifedi and Memphis offensive guard Al Bond.