The 2022 NFL Draft is Thursday night, and several players with Nashville-area ties stand a good chance of being selected.
Many former high school football players, as well as a handful of area college hopefuls, made a strong case for being selected on Day 2 or 3.
The Tennessee Volunteers are leading the way with four legitimate prospects and four more who could become free agents. While Middle Tennessee State and Vanderbilt are light on NFL talent, both schools have at least one prospect that could be late draft picks or undrafted free agent additions.
Below is a full list of players with local ties who could be drafted or sign with a team after the draft:
Matthew Butler, DL
Alontae Taylor, BC
Velus Jones Jr., WR
Cade Mays, OL
Theo Jackson, S.
JaVonta Payton, WR
Kenneth George, DB
Ja’Quain Blakeley, DL
Taylor’s speed (4.36 dashes for 40 yards), height (6-foot, 200 pounds) and length make him an ideal plug-and-play outside defensive back. In four years at Knoxville, Taylor, a Coffee County High School alum, totaled 162 tackles, 19 passes defensed, 5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. He should be a third-round pick.
Butler, a former four-star rookie, is the prototypical size (6-foot-4, 297 pounds) to be an impact defensive lineman in the NFL. He started 53 games in five seasons with the Vols, recording 152 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. It should be taken on turn 4 or 5.
Known more as a special teams player than a catcher between his five seasons at USC and UT, Jones Jr. has made strides in 2021 as a wide impact. He caught 62 balls for 807 yards and seven scores in 12 games, which is probably promising enough for a team looking for a catch-and-run threat to give it a shot. He should participate in rounds 4 or 5.
Mays played all five offensive line positions at Georgia and Tennessee. While his versatility probably boosts his draft stock a bit, his length and big frame help him against a bigger defensive lineman. Mays is a powerful pass blocker with good hands, making him a candidate to move to NFL center. He should be a sixth or seventh round pick.
Jackson, Payton, George and Blakeley are all expected to go undrafted, but have a good chance of signing free agent deals soon after the draft.
Reed Blankenship, S
DQ Thomas, LB
Jarrin Pierce, WR
It came as a surprise to some when Blankenship – an expected late-round pick in last year’s draft – returned for a fifth season in 2021, admitting he wasn’t ready for the next level just yet.
He seems to have made the right call after finishing his senior year with 110 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 9 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one interception, and writing his name in the record books. as MTSU. best tackler of the time.
Blankenship’s decision didn’t seem to hurt his draft stock much, as he’s still slated to be taken in Rounds 5-7. Thomas and Pierce are expected to go undrafted.
Allan George, BC
A fifth-year senior, George isn’t ranked by any of the major draft services, but he might be worth picking up an end-of-round flyer. He started 26 of the 45 games he played at the West End, totaling 142 tackles, 19 passes defended, 11 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one forced fumble. Although his stats are solid, George is unlikely to be drafted.
Nashville Area Prep Alumni
Ty Chandler, RB, NC (MBA)
Obinna Eze, OL, TCU (Davidson Academy)
Master Teague, RB, Ohio State (Blackman)
TJ Carter, DB, TCU (Stratford)
Jordan Wilson, TE, Florida State (MBA)
Jordan Mason, RB, Georgia Tech (Gallatin)
While most former Nashville prep players are not expected to be drafted, Chandler, Eze and Teague are each projected as mid-to-late round picks.
A second team All-ACC selection, Chandler rushed for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games with the Tar Heels as a graduate transfer. He had 3,138 yards and 26 touchdowns in five seasons between UNC and Tennessee. Chandler should be an early Day 3 selection, maybe as early as Round 5.
A 6-foot-8, 334-pound offensive lineman, Eze spent four years at Memphis before transferring to TCU this year. He started 37 games over the past three seasons as a left tackle. Eze was named an honorable mention Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year this year and earned invites to the NFL Combine and East-West Shrine Game this year. He should be a Day 3 selection, scheduled for Rounds 6 or 7.
Although Teague didn’t have the career at Ohio State he probably imagined, he showed value as a returning power on third downs. He finished his career with the Buckeyes with 1,764 yards and 17 touchdowns in 35 games. Some draft services predict he will be a seventh-round selection and others believe he will not be drafted.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_