Tennessee football: Early NFL Draft prediction for Josh Palmer

Next year, Tennessee football will be without its top wideout from the 2020 season. Senior wide receiver Josh Palmer, who caught 33 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns last season, is forgoing his extra year of eligibility and pursuing a future in the NFL. Over his four years on Rocky Top, the Canadian-born wideout hauled-in 99 passes for 1,514 yards and seven touchdowns.

Alongside former Vol teammate Trey Smith, Palmer participated in last month’s Reese’s Senior Bowl. The former three-star recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas High school caught a touchdown in front of NFL scouts from all 32 teams.

This further improved his chances of joining the exclusive group of Vol wide receivers taken in the NFL Draft, a position where Rocky Top is famous for producing NFL talent. Here’s the farewell post that Palmer shared with Tennessee football fans on Instagram.

Where will Palmer be drafted?

Through the first half of his senior campaign, Palmer tallied 19 receptions, 295 yards and four touchdowns. He posted 71 yards and two scores on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs and scored another against the Alabama Crimson Tide before the Vols’ bye week.

The 6’2″ 210-pound playmaker was on pace for well over 500 yards and eight touchdowns. However, Palmer failed to surpass 200 yards or reach the end zone in the final five contests. UT fans will be the first ones to say that struggles and changes at the quarterback position along with inscrutable play-calling hurt Palmer’s NFL Draft resume.

To gauge where Palmer could be drafted this spring, we don’t have to look much farther than the two UT wide receivers that entered last year’s NFL Draft. Jauan Jennings posted 59 catches, 969 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season on Rocky Top back in 2019. He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with pick No. 217 overall in Round 7 of last year’s draft.

Jennings’ co-conspirator, Marquez Callaway, caught 30 passes for 635 yards and six scores during his senior year. Callaway went undrafted, ultimately signing with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent. Ironically enough, he has had the more productive NFL career between the two former Tennessee football route-runners.

Both standing  at 6’2″ and similarly just north of 200 pounds, Palmer and Callaway can be most easily compared as draft prospects. While Palmer’s stats don’t sniff what Callaway or Jennings threw together in their final college season, Callaway’s early success and growing reputation at the next level could help Palmer’s draft stock.

Another thing Palmer has going for him is his timely play against strong opponents. Two of his biggest games of the season came over gaudy defensive secondaries in the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide. Even better, the touchdown he hauled in against the Crimson Tide was against anticipated first round corner back prospect Patrick Surtain II.

With a strong showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Palmer is a player who’s draft stock will likely improve amidst the build-up to the NFL Draft in late April. It’s also worth noting that Jennings, like Palmer, played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was drafted. Callaway did not. For right now, though, we’ll say his senior year stats land him in the later part of day three.

Prediction

New York Giants
Round 6 Pick No. 172

We’ve said it time and time again, there’s not a football team in the world that has enough depth in their wide receiver room. As a team that has struggled to pull production from the WR position, the New York Giants are an interesting potential landing spot for the Tennessee football wideout.

The G-Men found a diamond in the rough at the 2019 Draft when they drafted Auburn Tigers’ WR Darius Slayton in the fifth round. Could they take a chance on another athletic SEC playmaker this year? We’ll have to wait and see.

We’ve labeled this as an “early” draft prediction because we plan to revisit Palmer and the other two Tennessee football prospects’ draft status closer to selection night. Between then and now, teams will interview players and get a better idea of who they’d like to select. Until then, this is where we think Palmer will land in the 2021 NFL Draft.