That’s the opinion of Mike DeTillier, a respected draft analyst from Raceland, La.
Despite a crowded group of receivers, Meachem will be taken somewhere in the 20s, DeTillier said.
``Meachem reminds me of Jevon Walker (NFL receiver with Green Bay and Denver),’’ DeTillier said. ``He’s that type football player.’’
DeTillier said he would take Meachem over another talented SEC receiver, Sidney Rice of South Carolina.
``I like Robert’s ability more, his ability to get off defensive backs,’’ DeTillier said. ``Sidney is a long, lean athlete. I don’t think he’ll ever be a big fill-out guy.’’
Robert Meachem, an underachiever his first two years at Tennessee, had a breakout season. He set a single-season school record with 1,298 receiving yards on 71 catches with 11 touchdowns.
DeTillier thinks Meachem will be the fourth receiver taken, behind Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech, Ted Ginn Jr. of Ohio State and Dwayne Jarrett of Southern Cal.
DeTillier also thinks UT offensive lineman Arron Sears will be a first-round pick, saying he would be a great fit at Seattle, which lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson to free agency.
``I love his versatility and toughness and he comes to the table with the right attitude,’’ DeTillier said. ``He’s going to kick your butt. If you’re man enough to do it to him, so be it.’’
UT hasn’t had an offensive player picked in the first round since Donte Stallworth in 2002. DeTillier projects two offensive Vols going in round one.
DeTillier thinks two Tennessee defensive linemen could go in the second round: Justin Harrell and Turk McBride.
DeTillier sees Harrell going in the middle of the second round, provided he’s recovered from the torn bicep he suffered against Air Force.
``I think the world of him,’’ DeTillier said. ``He’s a tough guy, plays the run well. He improved as a pass rusher. He’s a good athlete who can run the field from sideline to sideline.’’
DeTillier is high on McBride, who played tackle and end at Tennessee.
``McBride is the most improved player on the team from start to finish,’’ said DeTillier. ``He’s a versatile guy. He did himself a great measure this year by really playing well. He’s a quick, active guy.
``He lacks maybe great upper body strength, but I just love his quickness and ability to run the field. I would not be shocked to see him picked late in the second round. With good workouts, he could go even higher.’’
DeTillier said Harrell and McBride’s draft status will be enhanced by LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey staying in college. Dorsey would have been a top-10 pick, DeTillier said.
DeTillier thinks the fifth Vol to be selected could be cornerback Jonathan Wade, who had four interceptions and led the SEC in passes broken up.
``He played much better as a senior than I’ve seen him play his entire college career,’’ DeTillier said. ``He’ll be overdrafted. This is no knock on him but he was never a dominant college cornerback. And I don’t think he’ll ever be a real steady type player at cornerback.’’
Why will Wade be overdrafted?
``Because he can run well,’’ Wade said. ``He’s a good athlete. I think he’s more suited for a No. 3 cornerback. But because of his speed and athleticism, some team will fall in love with him and pick him probably late third round, a first-day guy.
``That would have been shocking for me to say when the season started. But he played well enough to put himself in that position and in the second season (NFL workouts) I know he’ll do really, really well.’’
DeTillier said receivers Jayson Swain and Bret Smith will be middle-round picks. Detillier likes Swain’s size, hands and route running ability but he lacks speed. Smith also runs good routes and is a better athlete than Swain, but wasn’t as productive, DeTillier said.
``Each would fit in a three-wide receiver set you see so many times from teams like the Patriots or Saints,’’ DeTillier said.
DeTillier sees middle linebacker Marvin Mitchell, fullback Cory Anderson and cornerback Antwan Stewart going in the latter rounds.
While Anderson had a poor senior season, getting benched because he wasn’t productive, DeTillier sees Anderson as a ``big blocking fullback and a good athlete who catches the ball well out of the backfield.’’
DeTillier thinks as many as 16 underclassmen could be first-round picks.
The SEC had a dozen players turn pro early. Which of the four Florida juniors will be taken first? DeTillier said it could be middle linebacker Brandon Siler, who he compares to former Vol Al Wilson, safety Reggie Nelson or defensive end Jarvis Moss.
DeTillier said the SEC player who made the biggest mistake coming out early was Ole Miss linebacker Rory Johnson.
``He’s only had one good year at a four-year college,’’ DeTillier said of the junior college transfer. ``I thought he could have been an unbelievable player as a senior. I think he’ll be a middle-round pick, but had he stayed, I’m convinced he would have been a dominant SEC player in 2007.’’