KNOXVILLE — After playing the final game of his college career later this month, Josh Dobbs will move into life after being Tennessee's starting quarterback.
His immediate future plans include the NFL.
Dobbs will be successful in whatever career path he pursues, but the senior sounded confident earlier this week that his future includes football at the next level.
"I have a lot of confidence in my skills and abilities," Dobbs said, "and I definitely expect to play in the NFL and definitely expect to play well."
What seemed to be wishful thinking before the season appears to be much more of a reality now as Dobbs' strong senior season — he led the SEC in quarterback rating (152.6), touchdown passes (26) and total touchdowns (36) — has some NFL personnel reconsidering his chances as a professional.
Dobbs is on the watch list for the Senior Bowl, but he's yet to receive an invitation to it. There he would have a week of practices and the game to show NFL personnel what he can do. Iowa's C.J. Beathard, Baylor's Seth Russell, California's Davis Webb and Ole Miss's Chad Kelly are the quarterbacks who have accepted invitations to this point.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. during a conference call Thursday said he projects Dobbs as a late-round pick or undrafted agent, though he elaborated little on Dobbs' chances of playing quarterback in the NFL.
"I have Dobbs as a late-rounder or undrafted free agent," Kiper said, "that will have to battle his way into a camp and then see what happens. I don't see him in the first five or six rounds — maybe the seventh round or an undrafted-free-agent type."
Kiper ranks defensive end Derek Barnett fourth among draft-eligible defensive ends and 10th overall.
"Derek Barnett's a special pass rusher," he said. "Pass rushers are going to go (early). I expect him to be an early- to mid-first-round pick."
Running back Alvin Kamara is graded as a fourth- or fifth-round pick due to his versatility, according to Kiper, who also has linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (No. 8) and punter Trevor Daniel (No. 5) among the top-ranked draft-eligible players at their respective positions.
"It's a shame that Jalen Reeves-Maybin got hurt," Kiper said. "He's still a really good linebacker and has a chance certainly to be a productive player in the NFL. He's No. 8 right now on the board as far as outside linebackers are concerned."
Matt Miller, the NFL draft analyst for Bleacher Report, ranks Dobbs 17th among his 2017 quarterback prospects.
Dobbs certainly fits the dual-threat mode with which Seattle's Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott at Dallas have had success, but many of the questions about Dobbs remain the same regarding his consistency in terms of accuracy and ability to read defenses and progressing beyond his primary read.
Successful dual-threat college quarterbacks have transitioned to and excelled at new positions, and Dobbs could stick in the NFL that way if he's willing to play another position.
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is Cleveland's leading receiver, and the Browns have played him at quarterback and used him in wildcat formations this season.
Denard Robinson, a fifth-round pick out of Michigan in 2013, is in his fourth season as a running back for the Jaguars.
Retired Tennessee and NFL assistant coach Kippy Brown told the Knoxville Quarterback Club last week he believes "without a doubt" Dobbs can be a successful pro quarterback.
"Now, he's got to go to the right place," said Brown, who coached Tennessee's receivers in three separate stints and spent 20-plus years as an offensive assistant in the NFL.
"If he goes to Cleveland, he's going to get beat up, because they're not very good right now. But if he goes to a good football team like Russell Wilson did, he'd be fine. Russell, all he did was not screw it up. Josh makes good decisions. He's smart. He's mobile. Look at some of the runs he'd made.
"He's got height, and he's throws it well enough. If he gets with the right team that will put him in a situation like Dak Prescott — when that guy came out of Mississippi State, nobody could foresee the success he's having, but he's on a good football team, he's mobile, he makes good decisions and he can play, just like Russell Wilson.
"Somebody's going to get this kid probably somewhere in the middle rounds. They'll take him. They'll pass on him for a while, and then somebody will say, 'Hey, we can't pass on this guy again.' They know what happened with Dak. Same thing happened with Russell. If he goes to a good football team, he'll be a heck of a player."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.