Could Tennessee have two first-round picks in 2021 NFL Draft?
The Tennessee Vols had to wait until Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft to have a player selected. It had to wait until Day 3 was almost complete to have a second player picked.
Next year, the wait likely won't be so long for either event.
Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith is widely projected as a first-round pick in 2021. Vols offensive lineman Cade Mays, a Knoxville native who transferred from Georgia, is also projected as a potential early pick.
Sporting News projected Smith as the No. 17 pick to the Chicago Bears and Mays as the No. 25 pick to the Buffalo Bills.
"The Bears got their short-term replacement for retired Kyle Long by signing Germain Ifedi to a one-year deal," wrote Vinnie Iyer. "But Smith has many of the same qualities at 6-6, 325 pounds, to be a long-term solution."
About Mays, Iyer wrote: "The versatile run blocker Mays, a Georgia transfer, would be much more appealing solution at right guard over Jon Feliciano (free agent in 2021 and Spencer Long (club option in 2021)."
The Walter Football projections have Smith as the No. 15 pick to the Los Angeles Chargers and Mays as the No. 21 pick to the Denver Broncos.
UT hasn't had a first-round pick since defensive end Derek Barnett went No. 14 to Philadelphia in 2017. The Vols haven't had two first-round picks in a single draft since 2010, when safety Eric Berry was selected No. 5 by Kansas City and defensive lineman Dan Williams was taken No. 26 by Arizona.
Smith elected to return to Tennessee for his senior season rather than enter the draft early. He had an All-SEC junior season but has battled blood clots in his lungs twice. He has the physical tools to be a dominant NFL offensive lineman but said he believes he “left some money on the field" in his decision to return.
"His power, athleticism and ability to get to linebackers in the running game are awesome," wrote Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "Smith's medical history will have to be vetted, but his play is first-round-caliber."
Mays started for the past two seasons at Georgia before transferring to Tennessee. The 6-foot-6, 318-pound Mays played every position on the offensive line last season for the Bulldogs.
The Knoxville Catholic product committed to Tennessee in July 2015 but then decommited in November 2017. He signed with Georgia a month later.
But now he's a Vol and another potential first-round NFL Draft pick. He was tabbed as a top selection by SB Nation.
"Cade Mays was a five-star recruit, and he has the potential to be an elite left tackle," the Walter Football mock draft detailed.
Mays, per NCAA transfer rules, will have to sit out the 2020 season unless he gets a waiver. As an intraconference transfer, he would require a waiver from the NCAA and SEC.
The Vols had two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft in defensive end Darrell Taylor and wide receiver Jauan Jennings. Taylor was picked by Seattle in the second round and Jennings was picked in the seventh round by San Francisco.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.