3 NFL teams that love drafting Tennessee football players

2018 NFL Draft
2018 NFL Draft / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Tennessee football will be looking to build on its legacy this weekend by sending some more players into the NFL through the draft. Since the inaugural NFL Draft in 1936, Tennessee has had at least one player drafted in all but five years, totaling 375 players. 

From Tennessee's first national championship in 1938 to their most recent in 1998, the Vols have sent some great players into the NFL, including some Hall of Famers. Tennessee has had 49 players go on to be first-round draft picks, with 17 players being taken in the top ten. 

Pro Football Reference lists every franchise that has drafted a Tennessee Volunteer football player based on the year, round, and overall pick. To no one's surprise, some of the oldest NFL franchises have drafted the most Vols, but who sits at the top?

Top 3 teams

While players have been drafted by every current NFL franchise and even some defunct AFL and NFL teams, the team that has drafted the most Tennessee players is the Detroit Lions. The franchise began in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans in 1930 but didn't waste too much time after the 1936 NFL Draft to start picking up some Volunteers.

Detroit has drafted 23 Vols since 1940, the first year the team drafted a player out of Tennessee. Some notable players to be drafted by Detroit are Terry Fair in 1998, Jalen Reeves-Maybin in 2017, and most recently Hendon Hooker in 2023. 

The Lions are the only franchise to have drafted at least 20 players from Tennessee. Six teams are close behind the Lions with five or fewer picks than Detroit, but none break the 20-mark. The three teams with the next highest number of picks all have some history of playing in Chicago. 

The team to draft the second-most Volunteers is the Chicago Bears, with 19 total picks. The most recent Vol to become a Bear is Darnell Wright, who was drafted No. 10 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Bears also drafted wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. in the 2022 draft in the 3rd round.

The third-most Vols have gone to two franchises tied at the No. 3 spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals have drafted 18 Volunteers to their franchises. 

Half of the Cardinals' draft picks from Tennessee came before 1950, sprinkling the rest throughout the latter half of the 1900s and early 2000s. The Steelers, however, have been a bit more active recently, drafting Tee Martin in 2000, Daniel McCullers in 2014, and Cam Sutton and Josh Dobbs in 2017. 

All-Time NFL Draft List

23 - Detroit Lions

19 - Chicago Bears

18 - Chicago Cardinals/Pittsburgh Steelers

18 - Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals

18 - Dallas Cowboys

18 - Philadelphia Eagles

18 - Washington Redskins/Football Team/Commanders

15 - Miami Dolphins

15 - Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams

14 - Green Bay Packers

14 - San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers

13 - Cleveland Browns

13 - New York Giants

12 - Kansas City Chiefs

12 - New Orleans Saints

12 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12 - Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans

11 - San Francisco 49ers

11 - Buffalo Bills

11 - Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders

10 - Cincinnati Bengals

9 - Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts

9 - Boston/New England Patriots

8 - New York Jets

7 - Denver Broncos

7 - Seattle Seahawks

6 - Atlanta Falcons

5 - Minnesota Vikings

4 - Carolina Panthers

4 - Jacksonville Jaguars

4 - Baltimore Ravens

1 - Brooklyn Dodgers (AFL)

1 - Boston Yanks/Tigers (Not Active)

1 - Houston Texans

1 - New York Yanks (Not Active)

Next. Where does Tennessee football rank in all-time NFL Draft picks?. Where does Tennessee football rank in all-time NFL Draft picks?. dark

Six Vols will be available to be drafted in this year's draft, so we will see which teams continue taking Them, adding to their franchise total, or if some lower-ranked teams like the Texans or Ravens move up the list.