Last night, Louisville football players Jaire Alexander and Lamar Jackson became the sixth and seventh 1st-round draft selections in the last five years under Bobby Petrino. In that same time period, the Kentucky Wildcats have had just one 1st rounder (Bud Dupree), and four total selections. (H/T Lachlan McLean of ESPN 680.)
Unless we see a surprise with Cole Mosier or Courtney Love in the late rounds, it’ll mark the second consecutive year a Wildcat has failed to get selected in the last 15 rounds of the NFL Draft.
And that troubling streak of undrafted Wildcats will certainly end in 2019.
Next season, Kentucky will have Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, CJ Conrad, Dorian Baker, Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson, Denzil Ware, Jordan Jones, and more with NFL Draft stock. If junior Cats Benny Snell, Landon Young, Logan Stenberg, etc. also take the plunge next offseason, that number could rise.
Two could be first-round talents (Allen and Edwards), two could be second or third-round selections (Conrad and Snell), and depending on how the year goes, we could see several other Kentucky players selected in the mid-round range.
If all goes as planned, the 2019 NFL Draft class will easily become the best in Kentucky history.
The Cats have had multiple first-round draft selections just once in program history when Warren Bryant and Randy Burke were chosen in 1977.
In 1966, Kentucky had a first-rounder, two 2nds, a third, and a fifth, which would be the only competing class to their potential class in 2019.
We all know what Josh Allen brings to the table. At 6-foot-5, 230-pounds (and growing), Allen is a physical specimen with the opportunity to be a dominant pass rusher in the NFL. He would’ve been a second or third round selection in this year’s draft, but with another year to grow and develop, he will almost certainly push his way into the first round. Bud Dupree used a dominant senior year to earn a spot in the first round, and Allen will likely follow in his footsteps.
According to sources, Mike Edwards had a third-round promise this offseason, but was told a dominant senior season would lead to that same team selecting him in the first round in 2019. NFL teams are in love with his versatility, and if he continues to progress the way he has since he got to Kentucky, he will be a consensus first/second-round pick. Watch for Edwards to play some corner and return some kicks/punts this season to show off just how versatile he can truly be.
With the dominance of tight ends in the NFL right now, it comes as no surprise teams are fascinated with CJ Conrad and his senior campaign at Kentucky. If he can return to health next season and get the ball in his hands a bit more, don’t be surprised to see him sneak into the second round or so in 2019. NFL teams love his ability to block and make plays for his teammates, and showing off what he can do as a pass-catcher will be crucial in bringing him from a third or fourth-round prospect up into the first two rounds.
Beyond the big three, Benny Snell has a ton of interest around him, and he will likely forgo his senior year at Kentucky to pursue his NFL dreams (no sources on this, just playing the odds.) He already has the size and heart, and if he can improve his top-end speed to separate from elite SEC defenders in the open field, you can lock Snell up to go no later than the third or fourth round, likely higher.
Other storylines to watch: Dorian Baker’s health, Jordan Jones’ working his way back to what we saw out of him two years ago, Landon Young’s growth into his five-star potential, Denzil Ware’s fundamental and weight development, etc. Kentucky has four sure-things, but the opportunity for anywhere from six to 12 total selections next offseason.
Mark Stoops finally has the NFL tools he has been begging for at Kentucky. And if they thrive the way they’re capable of, the Cats could be in for a special season.