(US Presswire Photo)
It’s early, but how about looking ahead to what type of NFL prospects this Kentucky team has to offer. Last year, Wildcats fans saw the defense’s top tacklers drafted on the third day. The tandem of Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy is undoubtedly missed at Commonwealth Stadium, but both players are making their marks on their respective teams by inching up the depth chart. Kentucky could have yet another tandem selected in this year’s draft, but it’s not where you’d traditionally think.
OG, Larry Warford: The anchor of Kentucky’s offensive line could hear his name called relatively early in next year’s draft. Warford has all the tools to be a great guard at the next level. Great size, great hands, a balanced game, and a mean streak that doesn’t go along with his quiet personality. NFL teams took notice of the Richmond, KY native after a monster junior campaign, causing him to leap up draft boards. If Warford has a great combine he could be a end-of-first-round type of prospect. Either way, he should be an immediate contributor for any team that picks him up. Draft projection: Round 2-3
C, Matt Smith: Historically, the Wildcats haven’t put a lot of offensive linemen in the NFL. That could change this year if both Smith and Warford are drafted. A defensive tackle coming out of high school, Smith had to earn his reps at center once he made the switch to the other side of the ball. Once he became a starter, he never relinquished his role and is one of main the reasons the offensive line has been so steady against top competition. Smith has good size for a center and a pretty solid game to go with it, too. His injury history could scare some teams away, but, if he’s able to stay healthy, he’ll eventually compete for a starting job at the next level. Draft projection: Rounds 4-6
DE, Collins Ukwu: When DC Rick Minter was hired I was excited for one player in particular: Collins Ukwu. Ukwu’s build is more catered to play a five-technique position than pass-rushing DE, which is probably what he’ll play at the next level. Ukwu will tell you himself that too many times he got washed out of plays in his first season at the position. He’s gotten much better this season at holding the point of attack, and setting the edge when he’s responsible. He’ll continue to play the five-technique at the next level, but will be a bit of a project for a team that picks him up. A great combine workout would really help out his cause. Draft Projection: Round 6- Undrafted
CB/S, Martavius Neloms: Neloms might be my favorite player in this upcoming class. Because he’s played literally every position in Kentucky’s secondary, he’s more equipped to mold to an NFL defense than vice versa. Think Malcolm Jenkins in Gregg Williams’ defense (without the bounties) as the type of player he could become. At 6-1, 190 lbs he’ll have to put on a little weight to handle the safety/cornerback grind of the NFL, but his frame looks like it’ll be able to handle it. Neloms is a very physical player, which makes you think a nickel safety or cover-two corner would be his best bet at the next level. Like Ukwu, an outstanding combine performance would help GMs, coaches, and scouts to do more homework on him. Draft Projection: Round 6- Undrafted