Alontae Taylor, Velus Jones Jr. selected on Day 2 of 2022 NFL Draft
Published 12:59 pm Saturday, April 30, 2022
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LAS VEGAS – Tennessee VFLs Alontae Taylor and Velus Jones Jr., who led the Volunteers to a resurgence in 2021, fulfilled lifelong dreams on Friday night as the two were selected on the second day of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Taylor was tabbed by the New Orleans Saints in the second round with pick No. 49, while Jones Jr. was drafted by the Chicago Bears at pick No. 71 in round three.
“Whenever my phone started buzzing, I jumped up and quieted everyone down,” Taylor said. “It’s amazing just knowing my dream is coming true. Whenever they announced my name, my grandma is not here and passed away, and I had a picture sitting in front of me, and I gave her a kiss. She was the first person I made sure I gave a kiss to before hugging my mom.”
Taylor, who could play cornerback or safety at the next level, became the highest drafted Tennessee defensive back since Eric Berry went fifth overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010.
Taylor continued a Knoxville to New Orleans pipeline, joining 2017 draftee Alvin Kamara and current Saints Marquez Callaway, Shy Tuttle, Ethan Wolf and Bryce Thompson.
In 2021, Taylor graded out among the top four cornerbacks in the SEC according to Pro Football Focus. He started all 12 games of the regular season and had a career-best 60 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown.
He improved his stock with a pick in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and clocked a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Jones Jr. became the third Vol wide receiver selected in as many drafts. He joins a list of VFL wide receiver legends chosen by the Bears, including Lester McClain (1971) and Willie Gault (1983).
Jones Jr. will bring his versatility to Chicago as a receiver and return specialist. The 2021 SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year and a first-team All-SEC selection was the only player in the nation with over 800+ receiving yards, 200+ punt return yards and 600+ kickoff return yards last fall.
Day three of the NFL Draft now focuses on VFLs defensive lineman Matthew Butler, offensive lineman Cade Mays, defensive back Theo Jackson, wide receiver JaVonta Payton and defensive lineman Ja’Quain Blakely.
Coverage of rounds four through seven begins at noon ET Saturday on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC.
Tennessee NFL Draft Notes
With the two selections on Friday night, Tennessee has had 376 all-time draft picks, which dates back to 1936. That mark includes the AFL Draft, which merged in 1967.
Tennessee was one of only five schools nationally and two in the SEC to produce a defensive back AND wide receiver drafted in the first three rounds. The others include Georgia, Penn State, Baylor and Cincinnati.
The Volunteers have now had at least one wide receiver drafted in three consecutive drafts. That’s the longest streak for the program since they had at least one wide receiver selected in four straight drafts from 2001-04.
Alontae Taylor became the highest drafted Vol defensive back since Eric Berry was selected fifth overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010.
Taylor is the 12th Vol drafted all-time by the New Orleans Saints and the highest by the Saints since wide receiver Robert Meachem was pick No. 27 in round one in 2007. He is the first Vol defensive back drafted by the Saints.
It’s the first time since 2007 that the Vols produced a wide receiver AND a defensive back drafted in the first three rounds.
Jones Jr. is the 19th Vol drafted by the Chicago Bears all-time and first since defensive back Jeremy Lincoln in 1992. Jones Jr. is the highest drafted Vol by the Bears since VFL legend Willie Gault was pick No. 18 in the first round in 1983.
Josh Heupel-coached teams have had at least one wide receiver picked in three straight drafts. He has had four wide receivers selected in the last three drafts combined.