Different paths

Different paths

Tennessee landed two quality tight ends in its 2006 signing class who are projected to be picked in this week's NFL Draft. Only one wound up playing for the Vols, however.

Back in the summer of '06 Luke Stocker of Berea, Ky., was generally overshadowed by fellow signee Lee Smith, a Knoxville native who happened to be the son of former Big Orange and NFL offensive lineman Daryle Smith.

Lee Smith was dismissed from the Vol program prior to his freshman season, however, and wound up transferring to Marshall, where he redshirted in 2006 before resurrecting his career. Stocker, who arrived on The Hill packing just 225 pounds on a 6-5 frame, also redshirted in '06.

Four years later, both are expected to be selected by NFL teams this week, based on projections published in Pro Football Weekly's 2011 Draft Guide.

Stocker, who has grown into a 6-5, 255-pounder, is ranked No. 3 among tight-end prospects behind Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph and Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks. Stocker is projected as a Round 3 or 4 draft pick. Under the heading Upside are the following traits: "Solidly built with a big frame to add bulk ... Competitive blocker - understands angles ... Effective short-zone receiver/route runner ... Good hands .. Catches in traffic ... Smart and tough." Under the heading Downside are the following notes: "Could improve in-line blocking power ... Average speed and athletic ability ... Average hip flexibility ... Limited suddenness to separate vs. man ... Has no distinguishable elite traits."

Smith, who has grown into a 6-6, 269-pounder, is ranked No. 7 among tight end prospects behind Rudolph, Kendricks, Stocker, Nevada's Virgil Green, Tulsa's Charles Clay and Arkansas's D.J. Williams. Smith is projected as a Round 6 or 7 draft pick.

The segment on Smith describes him as a "big, strong, old-school in-line blocker with a pro pedigree and solid makeup. Has the football temperament and base-blocking ability to stick as a No. 2 blocking tight end and might even warrant some interest as a developmental OT prospect."

What follows are some more interesting notes from PFW's 2011 Draft Guide:

Despite clocking a 4.37 forty during Tennessee's Pro Day, ex-Vol Denarius Moore is rated 33rd among 40 wide receivers PFW considers draft-worthy. The accompanying profile notes: "A straight-line speedster who came on strong as a senior, Moore is not a natural catcher, gets beat up by the ball and too easily is rerouted. That said, he can keep defenses honest with his pure vertical speed."

Ex-Vol Kevin Cooper is given an outside shot at being drafted. He's ranked 14th among 15 fullbacks who might warrant consideration. He is described as "A converted high school running back with good peripheral, lead-blocking vision. Cooper paved the way for Montario Hardesty in 2009 and has earned a reputation as a solid lead blocker."

Gerald Jones, who ran disappointing 40-yard dash times of 4.73 and 4.68 at UT's Pro Day, is not listed among the 40 wideout prospects PFW deems draft-worthy.

Chris Walker, who played defensive end at Tennessee but projects to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros, is not mentioned among the 30 ends or the 30 OLBs Pro Football Weekly projects to be drafted. Nor is Vol teammate Gerald Williams, another undersized end.

Nick Reveiz, a two-year starter at middle linebacker for Tennessee, is not among the top 20 inside linebacker prospects profiled by PFW. LaMarcus Thompson, a two-year starter at outside linebacker, is not listed as draft-worthy, either.

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