KNOXVILLE - Three rounds, three draft picks for the Tennessee Volunteers.
After receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter went five picks and nearly 24 hours apart in the first and second rounds of the NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins took offensive lineman Dallas Thomas in the third round Friday night with the 77th overall pick.
"I was always interested in playing guard because we always had a little competition with the guys over could a tackle play guard," the Baton Rouge, La., native told the Dolphins' website. "The guards would get mad saying it's not as easy as you think it is but it was nothing. It's my dream to start and I hope to get in and compete and go from there."
The 6-foot-5, 308-pound Thomas, who suffered a torn labrum while practicing for the Senior Bowl in January, started all 37 games of his career at left guard and left tackle the past three seasons for the Volunteers.
"We like his versatility, we liked his athleticism, we thought he had a pretty good technique and I think he has a bright future," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "He's a fluid athlete, we like his size and thought he was well coached at Tennessee. We're going to start him on the left side, I'm not sure where yet as we've got to see how the weekend unfolds but I'm excited about him."
After starting 25 games in 2010 and 2011 at left tackle, Thomas earned an All-SEC second-team selection while starting every game as a senior at left guard and rotating at left tackle, and his versatility was an asset in the eyes of NFL personnel.
"From talking to the guys, from the scouts and all that, it's helped him tremendously," former Tennessee offensive line coach Sam Pittman told the Times Free Press last November. "Not only the fact that everybody that we're talking to is projecting him at guard, but the fact that he has now, people can see two years at tackle, they can see a year at guard. They all like him at guard, and 'Well, if he doesn't work out, we can put him at tackle.'
"That really has helped his draftability."
The wait spills into today's final four rounds for other former Tennessee players, including quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Da'Rick Rogers, the former Calhoun (Ga.) High School star who ended his collegiate career at Tennessee Tech.
Five receivers -- California's Keenan Allen, Baylor's Terrance Williams, Oregon State's Markus Wheaton, Texas' Marquise Goodwin and West Virginia's Stedman Bailey -- were taken in the third round ahead of Rogers, who was dismissed from Tennessee before his senior season.
After the New York Jets took West Virginia's Geno Smith in the second round and Tampa Bay selected North Carolina State's Mike Glennon in the third, only three quarterbacks have come off the board, leaving Bray undrafted along with Southern California's Matt Barkley, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson.
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