Cooper first Vol to be taken?

Someone at Sports Illustrated really likes former Tennessee fullback Kevin Cooper ... enough to think he'll be the first ex-Vol taken in this year's NFL Draft.

SI.com listed Cooper No. 25 among the "best available" players after 32 prospects were chosen in Friday's first round. That means SI considered Cooper one of the top 57 prospects in the draft.

That's surprising in view of two facts:

1. Cooper was beaten out by Vol freshman Channing Fugate midway through the 2010 season.

2. Cooper was listed no higher than 14th among fullbacks on most reputable pre-draft prospect lists ... and fullback is not a high-demand position. Consider the fact that not one fullback has been selected in the first three rounds of the 2011 draft.

With three rounds of the NFL Draft now complete, no Tennessee players have been selected. Cooper, however, has zoomed to No. 5 on SI.com's list of "best available" players waiting to be drafted.

Here's what the website has to say about him:

Biography: Three-year starter who caught 7 passes for 43 yards as a senior while accumulating no rushing statistics. Carried the ball just once as a junior with 12/110/1 as a receiver.

Positives: "Underrated and relatively athletic blocker who's been solid on the college level. Bends his knees, has good quickness, and shows terrific blocking vision. Redirects to linebackers on the second level, moves well on his feet, and seals opponents from the action. Solid receiver out of the backfield."

Negatives: Lacks the strength to finish off blocks. Not an offensive threat. Average speed and ability on the second level.

Analysis: Cooper is a competitive lead blocker who does the little things well. He lacks the top size/speed numbers for the next level yet would be an effective backup in a West Coast or timing system.

For what it's worth, ex-Vol receiver Denarius Moore is rated No. 38 on SI.com's "best available" list and former UT tight end Luke Stocker - generally regarded as the Vols' premier draft prospect - is rated No. 101.

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