Give Butch Jones some credit — his recruiting littered the NFL with high-impact Tennessee Vols last season.
New Orleans was blessed by the services of Alvin Kamara, while the Philadelphia Eagles won a Super Bowl thanks to Derek Barnett adding depth along their defensive line.
While 2017 was a great year to be a Tennessee Vol in the NFL, this wasn’t the case in Knoxville, where the Vols recorded their worst season ever (4-8 overall record, 0-8 mark in the SEC) and showcased a disturbing lack of elite NFL talent. As a result, after six Vols were drafted in 2017, only three were drafted this season, with the highest coming in the third round.
Rashaan Gaulden, Safety
Drafted: 3rd round, 85th overall Team: Carolina Panthers
“Officially Official.” pic.twitter.com/zirnTSZJ4T
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) April 28, 2018
The Carolina Panthers desperately need help in their secondary. With the addition of Gaulden, Carolina adds a versatile defensive back that can provide support for the Panthers’ front seven in both the running and passing game.
The fit is obvious, but Gaulden isn’t an athletic specimen by any stretch of the imagination. Because of this, it’s unlikely he’s a fixture in the secondary. His value will come as a rotational piece when Carolina opts to implement packages that call for more defensive backs. In that setting, Gaulden is truly valuable and solid pick for the Panthers.
John Kelly, Running Back
Drafted: 6th round, 176th overall Team: Los Angeles Rams
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) April 30, 2018
This match is perfect for both parties involved. Adding Kelly provides the Los Angeles Rams — who are hellbent on winning a Super Bowl now — with a competent second option to Todd Gurley.
While there won’t be any running back controversy heading into training camp, Kelly is exactly what the Rams are looking for in the backfield — a bruising runner who can create yards after contact, catch passes out of the backfield, and more importantly, provide Jared Goff with adequate pass protection.
Snagging Kelly in the sixth round is an incredible value play for Los Angeles. And given what Kelly endured during his last season on the field at Tennessee (literally nobody blocked for him ever), it’s fitting that he’s drafted by a Super Bowl favorite.
Reginald Kahlil McKenzie, Jr., Guard
Drafted: 6th round, 198th overall Team: Kansas City Chiefs
“I’m proud of him and I told him that.” Reggie McKenzie reflects on his son, Khalil McKenzie, being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round. #Raiders legend Charles Woodson also shared a hilarious message with the Raiders GM. pic.twitter.com/0GHrhd1Lmn
— Chris Booker (@Bookerc94) April 29, 2018
No, that isn’t a typo.
Despite playing defensive tackle throughout his collegiate career, the Chiefs plan on shifting McKenzie to guard. How will that work? At this point, it’s impossible to tell.
Even if Kansas City decided to keep McKenzie at defensive tackle, the question marks would still linger. Because while McKenzie is an outstanding athlete, his college tape was underwhelming. Injuries played a role — he played in only 26 games from 2015-2017 — but McKenzie flat out didn’t live up to the hype. Maybe a change of scenery along the line of scrimmage is a necessary transition. Maybe, Andy Reid knows more about football than I do. Maybe.
Grades on how each player Fits
Featured images courtesy of Knoxville News Sentinel