When Roger Gooddell is received with boos at the podium of the 2018 NFL Draft, he will probably not call a Kentucky Wildcat’s name. For the second consecutive year, UK will not have an NFL Draft pick.
Injuries are at fault more than talent. Jon Toth was projected to fall between the third and fifth round before suffering a back injury that required surgery just weeks before the draft. Offensive tackle Cole Mosier had similar NFL projections prior to his senior season, until a knee injury ended his UK career.
There’s an outside shot Mosier could hear his name called before the draft concludes on Saturday. Austin MacGinnis, Juice Johnson, Kyle Meadows and Courtney Love may as well, but they will likely have to wait and sign with teams as free agents.
There’s no shame in that. As Jacob Tamme once told me, “Whether you’re a first rounder or a free agent, everybody gets a shot.” However, it will be a shot to the Kentucky football program’s pride if the Cats do have a two-year NFL Draft drought, something that has not happened since 2006-07.
You remember what happened in 2006-07. That talent hung around and four players were selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. Kentucky could double that number in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Kentucky’s All-SEC pass rusher would have been selected as high as the third round in the 2018 NFL Draft, but opted to return for one final year. He’s now projected as a first round pick (No. 23 overall by Walter Football) in the 2019 draft.
Allen is using the extra year to gain much-needed strength, following a path that’s similar to Bud Dupree’s. However, Dupree’s story isn’t what convinced him to return for his senior season; it was his son.
The Kentucky Badger had similar draft projections in 2018, somewhere between the third and fifth round. Overshadowed by other elite safeties in the SEC, Edwards can make a statement in his senior season and claim First Team All-SEC Honors. On pace to become Kentucky’s best tackling defensive back in school history, Edwards can explode into the late stages of the first round with a few big plays from a few different positions in the secondary.
Remember Hayden Hurst? He’s the tight end from South Carolina that was supposed to be the best in the SEC, until he tried to jump over Chris Westry.
This guy will probably be a first round pick tonight. If you don’t believe Conrad will be in a similar situation next year, you’re out of your damn mind.
Also, C.J. doesn’t need to catch 50 passes to be a high draft pick. I know it will anger fans if that doesn’t happen, but Vince Marrow is adamant that whether he catches seven or 70, Conrad will be a hot commodity in 2019.
Did you really think Benny is coming back for a fourth year? Folks, enjoy him while you can.
Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware
The previous four players are essentially locks in the first three rounds. The outlook for Ware and Jones is unclear.
Jones has the production of an NFL linebacker, but not the size. That’s why he missed much of last season with an injury and will miss the entire summer. If Jones gets healthy and produces numbers comparable to his 2016 season, NFL teams will take him in a heartbeat.
Ware is the original Blitz Bro, but he does not share Allen’s length and explosiveness. However, his frame is big enough to tack on weight and potentially become a 4/3 defensive end. A fringe pick in 2017, he can secure a spot between the fourth and sixth rounds with a consistent senior season.
Outside of Edwards, the rest of the secondary is filled with wild cards.
Upon seeing Chris Westry the first time, I thought, “that guy is going to be a star in the NFL.” He’s been inconsistent, but a big senior year could make my initial reaction true. Derrick Baity and Lonnie Johnson are massive human beings could post surprising numbers and slide into the draft after an excellent year.
There’s a ton of potential, but it all comes down to production. Kentucky’s secondary underperformed in 2017. If they play up to their talent in 2018, Edwards could have two or three other UK defensive backs join him in the draft.
The Offensive Line
Kentucky could have two offensive linemen taken in the 2019 draft. Bunchy Stallings is the line’s top pro prospect. He has a ton of experience, plenty of nastiness and the measurements to earn a fifth to seventh round selection. Offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei may be drafted as well, but as an offensive guard. He’s too small to be an NFL tackle, the position he has played most of his Kentucky career, but his strength and athleticism could be enough to get drafted.
The biggest problem for Bunchy and Big George: they are interior offensive linemen. Offensive guard is probably the least-drafted position (aside from specialists). GMs need good tackles to protect their quarterbacks and solid centers to be the rock of the offensive line, but most GMs believe they can mold a lineman into a great OG, that’s why they don’t need to waste a pick on them.
Kentucky football has not been well-represented in the NFL Draft for a few years. If the Cats complete the best season of Mark Stoops’ tenure, the number of draft picks could sky-rocket into the double-digits. Even if that doesn’t happen, there are at least four Wildcats who will hear their name called in the 2019 NFL Draft.