Tennessee’s Five NFL Draft Picks Second-Most In Nation Through Three Rounds

Tennessee’s Five NFL Draft Picks Second-Most In Nation Through Three Rounds

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft are complete, and Tennessee football’s five total draft selections are the second-most in the nation. The Vols added to their total Friday night as quarterback Hendon Hooker, wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman and edge rusher Byron Young were all chosen in the third round.

The four offensive picks by Tennessee through the first three rounds are tied for the most in the nation.

Four VFLs were selected during a 10-pick span in the third round. Hooker went No. 68 overall to the Detroit Lions. Hyatt and Tillman were chosen with consecutive picks at No. 73 (New York Giants) and No. 74 (Cleveland Browns), respectively. Young rounded out the selections at No. 77 to the Los Angeles Rams.

Hooker, the 2022 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, became the highest drafted Tennessee quarterback since Peyton Manning was chosen with the No. 1 overall pick by Indianapolis in 1998. Hooker broke Manning’s single-season and career completion percentage record at UT and will be reunited with high school teammate and VFL Emmanuel Moseley. He joins a Detroit roster that also includes VFLs Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cameron Sutton.

“Leadership is very important to me,” said Hooker during his media availability. “Me being a servant leader and genuinely enjoying people succeed—that’s something that my previous teammates know about me. I am going to be a good friend and a good teammate no matter what’s going on.

“Leadership starts at the quarterback position. How ever my role on the Lions goes, I just want to come in and soak up how to be a pro and how things are ordered so that when my number is called, I can step into that big leadership position. I will be prepared for it.”  

Hyatt, holding his draft celebration in Knoxville, went five picks later and became the first Vol chosen by the Giants since Gibril Wilson in 2004. The 2022 Biletnikoff Award winner and unanimous All-American tallied 67 catches for 1,267 yards and a school-record 15 touchdowns last fall.

Tillman, watching from his home in Las Vegas, continued a family legacy of NFL Draftees. His father, Cedric, was picked by the Denver Broncos in the 11th round of the 1992 NFL Draft 31 years ago. The Browns utilized their first pick of the entire draft to get Tillman at No. 74.

Hyatt and Tillman’s selections extended Tennessee’s streak of consecutive drafts with a wide receiver picked to four. That streak is the longest in the SEC and tied with USC for the longest in the nation. The Vols were the only program with multiple wide receivers selected through the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Young’s remarkable journey from the junior college ranks to general manager at Dollar General to Rocky Top made Friday night that much more rewarding. He became Tennessee’s first defensive pick of the draft while watching with his family in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. He was the first Vol pass rusher chosen by the Rams since Leonart Little in 1998.

The four picks on Friday night join first-round draftee Darnell Wright (No. 10 overall) among the Vols off the board. More could follow on Saturday. Day three of the draft, featuring rounds four through seven, begins at noon ET on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network. Undrafted Tennessee players will then have an opportunity to go through the free agent process.

Tennessee NFL Draft Picks
Round (Pick), Name, Position, Team

1 (10), Darnell Wright, Offensive Tackle, Chicago Bears
3 (68), Hendon Hooker, Quarterback, Detroit Lions
3 (73), Jalin Hyatt, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
3 (74), Cedric Tillman, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
3 (77), Byron Young, Edge Rusher, Los Angeles Rams

Tennessee NFL Draft Notes

  • With the five total draft selections, Tennessee has had 384 all-time draft picks, which dates back to 1936. That mark includes the AFL Draft, which merged in 1967.
  • Tennessee produced the second-most picks through the first three rounds of the draft with five. The Vols’ four offensive selections are tied for the most in the nation. Tennessee’s four offensive selections through pick 75 were the most in the nation.
  • Tennessee extended its streak of consecutive drafts with a wide receiver picked to four. That is the longest streak in the SEC and tied for the longest streak in the nation (USC).
  • Josh Heupel-coached teams have also produced at least one wide receiver pick in four straight drafts. He has had six wide receivers taken in the last four drafts combined.
  • Tennessee is the only program in the nation with multiple wide receivers selected through the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman became the first Vol wide receiver duo to be selected in the same draft since Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter in 2013.
  • Tennessee’s five draft picks are its most through the first three rounds of a draft since 2007.
  • Josh Heupel-coached teams have produced at least five draft picks in three straight drafts. Five Vols were chosen in last year’s draft, the first under Heupel.
  • Tennessee’s 10 picks over the last two drafts are the most over a two-year span since they had 11 from 2006-07.  
  • Offensive lineman Darnell Wright became the 47th first-round draft pick in Tennessee history. That total is top 10 in the nation.
  • Tennessee has produced three wide receivers drafted in the first three rounds of the last two drafts. That is tied for the most in the nation during that span.
  • Hendon Hooker became the 14th Vol quarterback drafted in the modern era and the highest since Peyton Manning went No. 1 overall to Indianapolis in 1998. Hooker is the third-highest draft UT QB all-time behind Manning and Heath Shuler (No. 3 in 1994).
  • Hooker is the 23rd Vol all-time to be selected by the Detroit Lions and the first since linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin in 2017.
  • Hyatt is the 12th Tennessee player chosen by the New York Giants all-time and first since defensive back Gibril Wilson in 2004. He is the highest drafted Vol offensive player by the Giants all-time.
  • Tillman is the 14th Vol player to be selected by the Cleveland Browns all-time and first since running back Montario Hardesty in 2010.
  • Young is the 15th Tennessee player selected by the Rams franchise in their history and first since running back John Kelly in 2018.
  • With Young’s pick, the Vols have now had at least one defensive lineman picked in back-to-back drafts.
  • Tennessee has produced four offensive draft picks. That’s the most offensive picks through the first three rounds of a draft for the Vols since they had four through the first three rounds of the 1991 draft.

-UT Athletics

NFL Draft / Credit: UT Athletics

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