Cats in the NFL: Prospects for UK football players in the draft

Lonnie Johnson Jr. celebrates a third down stop during the game against South Carolina on Saturday, September 29, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Chase Campbell

Though the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is nearing its end as the long season comes to a head, football season feels right around the corner. This upcoming NFL Draft promises to be one of the best for UK’s program in school history, and it’s because of many players not just named Josh Allen and Benny Snell. Several other prospects are climbing draft boards after stellar performances at the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine and UK Pro Day. They are as follows:

Lonnie Johnson, CB: Johnson is a prototype cornerback, and an NFL scout’s dream. He’s 6-foot-2 (tall for a skill position player) with a 6-foot-5 wingspan, a 38-inch vertical and a 4.39-second 40-yard dash. All of those measurements/times are fantastic, but those were all after he put on a show at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Defensive stats weren’t tabbed at the event, but several NFL analysts suddenly had Johnson appearing on their draft boards. He’s been climbing ever since, so don’t be surprised if he pops up on draft day with a surprise high-round pick.

Chris Westry, CB: Westry was the star of the show on UK Pro Day. He was the only eligible defensive back not invited to the Combine from Kentucky, so he decided he’d do all his work in Lexington. The 6-foot-4(!) cornerback jumped 38 inches and ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash. I saw it for myself. It was insane. Westry has a lot of discipline struggles, not conduct-wise, but on the field. He draws a lot of penalties, but an NFL team will be willing to use a late pick to grab one of the most athletic players in the draft. Teams will teach him the football stuff if he’s got the other things that can’t be taught. I also want him to get drafted, because then I can say I beat an NFL player at Connect 4 once (that is true).

C.J. Conrad, TE: Conrad is a curious case. A heart condition forced him to sit out of the Combine and UK’s Pro Day, which will be a concern come draft day. But he’s been a starter as long as Benny Snell has, and tight ends block just as much, if not more, than they pass. Conrad was an integral part in the brutal rushing attacks of the last three years, while also being second on the team in catches this past season. Expect him to go near the middle, but slightly lower than he’s been projected. His medical history will cause concern.

Other players expected to be drafted: Mike Edwards (S), Darius West (S), George Asafo-Adjei (OL), Derrick Baity (CB)

The NFL Draft will take place from from April 25 to the April 27 in Nashville, Tennessee.