Tennessee Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker has been so good this season that he could hear his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper currently has Hooker as his No. 8 overall quarterback for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Tennessee fans are obviously hoping that Hooker, a Virginia Tech transfer who arrived in Knoxville after the 2020 season, returns to UT for his final season of eligibility.

However, if Hooker were to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft, it wouldn’t necessarily be disastrous for the program. In fact, it could actually be a good thing for the long-term future of Vol football.

Not many folks knew Hooker’s name prior to the 2021 season. He was an afterthought at Virginia Tech and certainly wasn’t on the 2022 NFL Draft radar.

If playing under Josh Heupel for one year turns Hooker into a legitimate NFL draft prospect, it could lead elite quarterback recruits to commit to Tennessee.

One of the big questions about Heupel and his quarterback development is whether or not his offensive system helps prepare players for the NFL.

Hooker going to the NFL after one season would erase those questions.

Of course, I’m not sure those questions were valid anyway. Patrick Mahomes played in a similar offensive system at Texas Tech and he’s doing just fine in the NFL.

Heupel’s system is predicated on quickly reading the defense and running the play based on what the quarterback is seeing. I’m not a quarterback guru, but reading the defense and running the play based on that read seems closer to what Peyton Manning did in the NFL than just memorizing a playbook and going all-in on a play regardless of the defensive look.

Losing Hooker to the NFL could create some issues for the Vols in 2022 (though it seems likely that Heupel would be able to find a quality quarterback in the transfer portal), but it could pay off in the form of big-time quarterback commits for the Vols in the coming years.

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