University of Tennessee football fans actually have a valid reason to watch this week’s NFL Draft.
Pretty weird, right?
After all, no Vol was drafted in 2016. No Tennessee player was selected in 2015, either.
And it wasn’t like the 2014 NFL Draft did the Vols a favor. Sure, offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James went 19th overall to the Dolphins. Other than him, Tennessee boasted just a pair of sixth-rounders in linemen Zach Fulton and Daniel McCullers.
That’s a three-year span that an FCS school would brag about. Not a storied SEC program. You’re not going to sway an Alabama five-star verbal commitment over to Tennessee with that kind of résumé.
This time around, though, five – maybe six – Tennessee football players are expected to be drafted, the most since six Vols were selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.
But I’m curious as to how the Tennessee fan base will react.
When the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night and defensive lineman Derek Barnett goes in the top 10 or 15, will Tennessee fans rejoice?
When all-purpose offensive back Alvin Kamara possibly sneaks into the latter picks of the first round, will Vol fans tweet it up?
What about when those two picks snowball into quarterback Josh Dobbs, defensive back Cam Sutton and receiver Josh Malone going in the first 4-5 rounds? Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin may get drafted, too. Will Tennessee fans enjoy it and genuinely be happy for the program and those players?
I suspect that will be next to impossible.
Because, save for Dobbs getting drafted, you’ll probably just get upset again if you’re a Tennessee fan. You’ll only be reminded of what should have been this past fall, when the Vols were the clear favorites to win the SEC East and to return to a high-profile bowl game.
When Barnett gets drafted, you’ll say: “How was the defense that bad with him up front? He broke Reggie White’s sack record!”
When Kamara gets picked, you’ll say: “Why didn’t Butch Jones use him more?”
When Sutton goes, you’ll say: “I thought he’d have played better this past season.”
Then the demons will take hold and you’ll be reminded of the Texas A&M loss and how Tennessee inexcusably lost (coming off a bye) to a putrid South Carolina team with a nobody quarterback.
And then, the Vanderbilt loss that ended up sending Tennessee to the Music City Bowl will resurface and your whole weekend will be ruined.
Maybe you shouldn’t watch the NFL Draft at all.
I’ll save you the trouble. The first round will take hours. The Cleveland Browns have the first overall pick and screw it up. Again.
Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett will inexplicably get selected before Tennessee’s Barnett, even though Barnett outperformed him in SEC play.
And countless offensive linemen, who you’ve never heard of and likely won’t again, will go in the first round.
But if you, Tennessee fan, must watch, it all starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 27, on ESPN. Good luck.