Only three Tennessee players were among the 256 selected in three-day NFL draft that ended Saturday night.
Most surprisingly, Vols offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson, who left school with a year of eligibility remaining with hopes of being a first-round pick, went unselected and will have to pursue long odds as a free agent.
“Never saw this coming,” Richardson tweeted as the draft was winding down and it became clear he wouldn’t be selected. “With that being said, this doesn’t shake me.”
Two more Vols were picked on Saturday, joining offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, who was selected with the 19th overall pick by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.
Offensive guard Zach Fulton was picked by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 193rd overall choice.
Defensive tackle Daniel McCullers also went in the sixth round. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 215th overall pick.
Then it was silence as far as the Vols were concerned.
In addition to Richardson, two other members of the 2013 starting line went unselected -- center James Stone and guard Zach Bullard -- plus running back Rajion Neal and a handful of others who hoped to at least be considered.
Those players will be pursuing free agent opportunities and camp invitations in the coming hours and days.
Why did Richardson, an elite high school prospect with great size who had been projected as an NFL player for years, slip out of the draft completely?
Former Vol player and current NFL analyst Charles Davis first suggested back in February that Richardson was struggling with a microfracture knee injury that had many teams doubting that he would be able to play at all in 2014.
Richardson adamantly dismissed any health concerns publicly, but today’s snub makes it appear likely that NFL medical staffs advised their teams to avoid him.
In the end, Tennessee’s vaunted offensive line of a year ago produced the same amount of draft picks as Tennessee State, a Championship Subdivision school in Nashville.
As usual, the SEC led all conferences with 49 players drafted, but there were some unsettling caveats. Of the 38 players who left college with one year of eligibility remaining, nine are from the SEC.
Richardson became the third player from Tennessee in two years to leave school early and then not be drafted, joining quarterback Tyler Bray and defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him on Twitter.