Tennessee QB Dobbs' stock on the rise heading into NFL draft

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs has earned nearly as much attention for his academic achievements as his football exploits, so he is approaching the NFL draft process like he is prepping for an exam.

And the results are familiar: Dobbs is acing his football tests as well.

Regarded as a potential late-round selection or even an undrafted free agent prior to his senior season, the aerospace engineering major now could hear his name called by the second night of the NFL draft.

''I've done exactly what I set out to do, just put together great workouts in each of my opportunities to work out for various teams,'' Dobbs said. ''It's all I can do. I can't really read into much at this point. You just have to wait until the draft comes because that's when everything's set in stone.''

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay believes Dobbs will be a second-round pick. McShay has Dobbs as his fifth-ranked quarterback, behind North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer.

Dobbs started 37 games at Tennessee and joined Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Johnny Manziel as the only Southeastern Conference players ever to combine at least 50 career touchdown passes with 25 touchdown runs. His 3,781 yards of total offense last year were eight shy of Peyton Manning's single-season school record.

He gained more buzz by shining at Senior Bowl workouts. McShay said that prompted him to review Tennessee game tapes and notice dropped passes or incorrect routes contributed to Dobbs' perceived accuracy issues.

''I don't think that any quarterback in this draft has improved his stock as much as Josh has in the offseason,'' NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said.

Dobbs could become the first Tennessee quarterback to get taken in the first four rounds since Indianapolis made Manning the No. 1 overall pick in 1998. The only Tennessee quarterbacks drafted since Manning were fifth-round selections Tee Martin (2000), Erik Ainge (2008) and Jonathan Crompton (2010).

Dobbs has exchanged texts with Manning and has received advice from the five-time MVP.

''He talks about pride and preparation and just taking advantage of each opportunity,'' Dobbs said.

It's another former SEC quarterback most often mentioned with Dobbs these days.

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Prescott in the fourth round last year. The former Mississippi State star's success has played a role in Dobbs' recent surge.

''He will benefit from the Dak Prescott effect,'' said Bucky Brooks, a former NFL scout now working as an NFL Network draft analyst.

Dobbs was one of only seven people in Tennessee's senior class to get selected as a Torchbearer, which rewards academic achievement and service in the highest honor the school gives out. Dobbs was Tennessee's first male student-athlete to receive the honor since 1968.

McShay noted that Dobbs' major required tougher academic demands than a typical quarterback.

''To be able to take that mind and put it solely on football, I'm interested to see what the end product would be,'' McShay said.

Dobbs interned at aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney the last two summers. He has several options if football doesn't work out.

Davis wonders if that might cause some teams to worry about Dobbs' commitment to football and notes high academic achievers with outside interests often face those types of questions. Davis said Dobbs must remind teams how devoted he is to the game.

''I have zero doubts in my mind that he loves ball and he'll do whatever it takes, but he's got to make sure those teams understand that too,'' Davis said. ''Because the same things they like about him with his character and the academics and this, that and everything are also the same things that they're going to question.''

Dobbs said teams will realize his passion for football by watching how he played at Tennessee.

''The plan is to play football as long as I possibly can,'' Dobbs said. ''Of course going to school and pursuing an engineering degree, you can't play football forever. You can't play sports forever. My goal was to go and get a degree in something I enjoy, that I have a passion for and something that I could use to make a good living once I finished playing sports.

''The plan is to play sports as long as I can. I'd play forever if I could.''


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