Tennessee Football: Complete NFL Combine Grades, Results for Former Volunteers
Despite failing to put a quality product on the gridiron the past several years, the Tennessee Volunteers normally have their fair share of departing players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
This year was no different as five former Vols participated in the NFL's annual dog-and-pony show, where players get poked, prodded, examined, interviewed, dissected—all in front of a television audience.
Tennessee was well represented in Indianapolis: Four of its starting offensive linemen and a mountainous nose guard participated.
The abnormal number of offensive linemen raised eyebrows (and no doubt further frustrated UT fans who can't believe their talents produced just one bowl appearance). According to Titans Online's Craig Peters, Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted:
It's interesting to see almost the entire Tennessee offensive line there—I guess (Alex) Bullard wasn’t there. But he could have been invited. We could have had him too. Then we would have had the whole five offensive linemen from Tennessee. It's pretty unusual to see five guys from one school in that group. But obviously a pretty good looking group of players.
So, how did they fare? Let's take a look at the grades, results and analysis for all the Vols who hope to take their talents to the next level.
Antonio "Tiny" Richardson
The 6'6", 336-pound offensive tackle affectionately known in Knoxville as "Tiny" certainly didn't have a big showing at the combine.
Battling to impress his way into the first round, Antonio Richardson instead saw his draft stock plummet. His balky knees even led to NFL Media analyst Charles Davis to suggest that Tiny may have to "redshirt" during his rookie season, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.
Richardson doesn't think so, according to The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt: "I'm a first-rounder...I think I will be in the top 25. I plan on it being the case."
Bench Press: 36 reps
Vertical Jump: 24.5 inches
40-yard Dash: 5.3 seconds
Despite starting 24 consecutive games during his final two years and getting beat for just two sacks during his junior season, according to Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, that didn't translate to Richardson's workouts.
His 40-time was 12th out of the 17 tackles who ran one, and while he tied for the most bench-press reps among tackles, he made several "losers" columns, including NFL.com's Bucky Brooks' who said Richardson looked like a "limited athlete" in drills.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Richardson slipping to the New York Giants with the 10th pick of the third round, according to his latest mock draft.
Richardson interviewed well, and his strength numbers were solid. But considering Richardson's potential to climb into the first, it's hard to view his combine performance as anything less than a disappointment.
Vols offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James started every game during his Tennessee career, becoming a model of consistency for his play and his quiet leadership.
But as an NFL prospect, the Suwanee, Ga., native always has been overshadowed by Tiny Richardson.
He likely won't be as high a selection as Richardson in May's NFL draft, but James did a little better than expected during the Combine, grading out in the low-to-middle portion of the tackles on hand.
Bench Press: 22 reps
Broad Jump: 103 inches
Vertical Jump: 29 inches
Three-Cone Drill: 7.42 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.56 seconds
40-yard Dash: 5.34 seconds
At 6'6", 311 pounds, James was lauded by NFL.com for his size and mass, hand placement and pass-protection skills and possesses "instant-starter potential."
B/R's Matt Miller has James going in the 23rd pick of the fourth round to the Cincinnati Bengals, so if that plays out, James may have even helped himself a bit. Overall, he struggled in the bench press, but the numbers he put up in the athleticism drills were competitive.
Consistently Tennessee's strongest and highest-graded lineman during games, Zach Fulton was hoping to improve his stock with a solid combine performance.
But that performance came up short. Though he measured in at 6'5", 316 pounds, his bench press and 40-time were lacking. He also really didn't set himself apart athletically—posting the the worst 20-yard shuttle time among all participating offensive linemen.
Fulton likely will stay in the low rounds rather than move up toward the middle, if he's drafted at all.
Bench Press: 25 reps
Broad Jump: 98 inches
Vertical Jump: 24.5 inches
Three-Cone Drill: 7.87 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 5.16 seconds
40-yard Dash: 5.16 seconds
Though Fulton appeared raw in the combine, he started 40 of 47 career games for the Vols as a consistent force at guard. Given the way he consistently earned good grades in games and drew praise from coaches, he still could translate into a surprisingly strong pro.
B/R's Matt Miller does not include Fulton in his latest mock draft.
James Stone spent his Tennessee career bouncing back and forth between guard and center, and though he likely will play center on the next level, he didn't have any combine numbers that separated him from the pack.
Predictably, Stone performed competitively in the athletic activities and really struggled in strength drills.
Basically every UT offensive lineman showed the ill effects of never quite settling into a consistent strength and conditioning program in college.
Bench Press: 22 reps
Broad Jump: 105 inches
Vertical Jump: 27.5 inches
Three-Cone Drill: 8.16 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.63 seconds
40-yard Dash: 5.17 seconds
Stone had the fourth-best 40-time and third-highest vertical jump among the 11 projected centers who participated in Indianapolis.
It depends on which mock draft you look at when it comes to whether or not the Nashville native will be drafted, but if he is, chances are it will be very late. B/R's Matt Miller does not have him listed on his latest mock.
Daniel "Shade Tree" McCullers never lived up to the massive expectations in Knoxville that came with his 6'7", 352-pound frame.
According to USA Today's Steven Ruiz, McCullers measured in at the combine as the tallest, heaviest defensive lineman and also had the longest arms (36 5/8") and biggest hands (11").
But he never displayed superior strength in Knoxville, played too stiff and couldn't stay low. As a result, he was rarely able to be counted on as an every-down tackle.
Bench Press: 27 reps
Broad Jump: 104 inches
Vertical Jump: 20.5 inches
Based on size alone, McCullers was impressive, and he'll be drafted in the middle rounds solely on that and his massive potential. But he did not have a banner day participating in three events. McCullers not surprisingly posted the lowest vertical jump of all defensive linemen.
His bench press was a bit below average for his size as well. Nobody really expected anything more for a player who is hulking but possesses little athleticism.
Still, he'll be drafted. Matt Miller has him going in the fifth round to the Giants.
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