Tennessee football: Vols just completed worst NFL Draft decade in school history

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 15: A view of the outside of Neyland Stadium before a game between the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers on September 15, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 15: A view of the outside of Neyland Stadium before a game between the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers on September 15, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images) /

Tennessee football closed out the 2010s with a very bad NFL Draft performance. Here’s how every draft decade ranks for the Volunteers.

After their 1998 national championship, Tennessee football closed out the 1990s of the NFL Draft with six players taken in 1999. That upped their number of players drafted in the 1990s to 62, by far the best decade in school history, and affirmed them as the program to send players to the NFL.

Now, a mere 20 years later, the script has flipped. The Vols finished what was indisputably their worst complete decade ever when it comes to putting players in the NFL Draft after the 2019 draft came to a close over the weekend. The numbers prove that fact.

While 62 players were selected in the 1990s, the 2010s only saw 23 former Tennessee football players taken in any NFL Draft. Six of them, by the way, came in 2010, which meant players who played in the previous decade still heavily skewed the numbers.

No other full decade has come even close to this one. Now, to be fair, previous decades have seen larger numbers of picks go in the NFL Draft. But when you take that into account, the only decade that comes even close to being as bad is the 1960s, when 34 draft picks were taken.

Still, the Vols had one draft pick out of every 97 players taken. Meanwhile, the 2010s saw one Vol taken per every 110 draft picks. It’s the only full decade since the NFL Draft began to see one Vol per more than 100 draft picks taken. In fact, here is our ranking for draft picks per decade:

1. 1990s – 62 (1 out of every 43)

2. 2000s – 54 (1 out of every 47)

3. 1980s – 47 (1 out of every 71)

4. 1940s – 37 (1 out of every 73)

5. 1950s – 41 (1 out of every 89)

6. 1970s – 43 (1 out of every 96)

7. 1960s – 34 (1 out of every 97)

8. 2010s – 23 (1 out of every 110)

Now, just as a heads up, there is one decade we left off. And that decade is the 1930s. Tennessee football had just four players taken that decade. However, the NFL Draft didn’t begin until 1936. And only 491 players were taken overall. While that meant one out of every 122 draft picks were Vols, a lower number than the 2010s, the sample size was just not there.

So for measurable decades, the 2010s is the worst decade for the NFL Draft that former Vols ever saw. By the way, these raw numbers and raw averages aren’t the only things that make this a bad draft decade for Rocky Top.

Their five first-round draft picks are the fewest since the 1970s, a time when players could still be drafted out of other professional leagues. To be fair, that’s more first-rounders than any decade prior to the 1970s as well, but again, those were completely different times. And it’s worth noting again that two of those picks came from 2010.

Related Story. Ranking Vols 5 first-round draft picks in 2010s. light

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What stands out most, though, is something we’ve continued to say throughout this past weekend. With no players taken in 2019, Tennessee football was shut out of three drafts this year. That’s the highest number ever, and they had not been shut out of a draft since the 1960s before this decade.

The only other three times they were shut out were twice in the 1960s and way back in 1938. But ever since the draft began, they had never gone three years without a pick. That gives you an idea of how bad things fell this year.

To be fair, this is all reflective of the decade the Vols have had. A 5-7 season in 2018 assured that they would have more losing seasons than winning seasons this decade, no matter what happens in 2019. They had their first eight-loss season and winless SEC record back in 2017. And they’ve suffered through NCAA violations and multiple athletic directors with only two Top 25 seasons.

Next. Top 10 Vols who weren't first-round picks. dark

Simply put, this was a bad decade all around for Tennessee football in a historical way. The hope is that Jeremy Pruitt can turn things around, and after the 2019 season, the 2020 NFL Draft is a good way to start. But until then, there’s no way to overstate all the ways the Vols have fallen sine their 1998 national title. The NFL Draft numbers this decade is just one example.