If University of Tennessee fans tune in to watch the NFL draft Thursday night, it will be only out of curiosity.
Will the Colts pick a quality lineman to protect Peyton Manning in his elder years?
Any chance Alcoa’s Randall Cobb sneaks into the first round?
Will a fight break out right there in Radio City Music Hall between an Alabama fan and an Auburn fan?
It’s a far cry from the 2000 draft. Now there was a Tennessee parade.
Shaun Ellis and Jamal Lewis went in the first round, five more Vols followed in the second and Darwin Walker in the third. When Tee Martin was called in the fifth round, UT led the draft with nine picks.
Even in this diminished era of UT football, there has been a highlight moment for Vol fans to cheer during the first round.
Jason Allen (2006), Justin Harrell and Robert Meachem (2007), Jerod Mayo (2008), Robert Ayers (2009), they all took that multi-million-dollar walk to shake the commissioner’s hand.
Last year, it was but a short wait before Eric Berry’s face lit up in the green room, taking the call from Kansas City that he was about to be announced as the No. 5 pick.
Dan Williams joined the party later as the 26th pick, becoming UT’s seventh first-rounder in a five-year span.
That won’t happen in 2011.
If a Vol walks across that stage Thursday night, Mel Kiper will fall out of his chair and require CPR. So will his hair.
Opening night is exclusively the first round. The second and third rounds are Friday. Saturday will be a marathon to the finish line and, ultimately, the new Mr. Irrelevant.
By the time ESPN signs off Friday night, tight end Luke Stocker hopes to have found a new home. But there’s no guarantee.
The 2011 draft shapes up as a lengthy wait for UT. Cam Newton may have moved into a condo in Charlotte by the time a Vol gets called.
Surely it won’t be as long as 2004.
It took 136 picks — into the fifth round — for Gibril Wilson to break the drought. It was the first time since 1975 no Tennessee player had been picked in the first three rounds.
Falling down, or even off, the draft board is costly on the front end, but it isn’t the final word. Take 2004.
Wilson stuck and went on to win a Super Bowl. Scott Wells wasn’t picked until the seventh round, No. 251, and he’s still the starting center in Green Bay.
Several Vols who had to go the free-agent route in 2004 made teams. Anthony Herrera and Jabari Greer were starters in 2010 and Greer, like Wells and Wilson, has a Super Bowl ring.
Anybody out there wondering who will be Tennessee’s next first-rounder?
The talent pool at UT isn’t totally empty, but there has been significant leakage. I’d forego the diving board and slip in feet first.
Here’s a dark horse: Janzen Jackson.
He’s got first-round talent but off-the-field baggage. Even if Jackson resumes his career and excels, he’s got to prove that he’s worth a first-round investment.
Aside from that long shot, the best of what’s there is young. It might be the 2013 or 2014 draft before a worthy Vol matures.
For now, Thursday night will surely be an SEC parade. It just won’t include any orange.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com.