Five former wildcats selected in NFL Draft, more sign as free agents


Photo by UK Athletics

Mohammad Ahmad

Unless you were alive in 1979, this year’s NFL Draft just might be the most memorable one for Kentucky fans in recent history.   

Five former Wildcats heard their names get called, the most since 1979 when eight (James Ramsey, Jim Kovach, Kelly Kirchbaum, Rod Stewart, Bob Winkel, Robert Hawkins, Dan Fowler and David Stephens) were selected, in the Music City of Nashville the past three days. Josh Allen, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Mike Edwards, Benny Snell and George Asafo-Adjei all got one step closer to their professional dreams. 

Allen made headlines just minutes into the draft on Thursday night after he was selected as the seventh overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. His selection makes him Kentucky’s highest draft selection since defensive lineman Dewayne Robertson was selected fourth overall in 2003. Allen is also the first first-round selection from Kentucky since Bud Dupree in 2015. With 31.5 career sacks and 17 sacks in 2018, Allen broke UK’s career and single-season records and moved up to No. 9 on the Southeastern Conference’s career sacks chart.

The high selection may have surprised some, though. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper’s mock drafts projected Allen as a top-five pick. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell were edge rushers selected ahead of Allen as the second and fourth overall picks, respectively.  

Things picked right back up Friday afternoon when a pair of defensive backs were selected. Johnson was taken by the Houston Texans in the second round as the 54th overall pick. The cornerback’s draft stock improved after noteworthy performances in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, where he recorded a 4.35 40-yard dash time. He is the first-ever Wildcat drafted by the Texans. 

Edwards heard his name get called soon afterwards– the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him in the third round as the 99th overall pick and is the first Wildcat safety selected since Winston Guy’s selection in 2012. A four-year standout, Edwards received All-SEC honors in his last three seasons. 

That would be it until Saturday afternoon when t he excitement for Cats fans was flowing once more when Snell was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round as the 122nd overall pick. The Westerville, Ohio native will be playing three driving hours away from home and adds this to his scrapbook of accomplishments from this year. Snell earned 3,873 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns in 39 games as a Wildcat.

Asafo-Adjei’s selection by the New York Giants in the seventh round with the 232nd overall pick capped off the Wildcat draft selections. His offensive line performance helped pave the way for Snell to rush over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons. He is the first Kentucky offensive lineman picked since Pro Bowler Larry Warford’s 2013 selection. 

Several other Wildcats got their chance, too, signing as undrafted free agents. Wide receiver Dorian Baker signed with his hometown Cleveland Browns, cornerback Chris Westry signed with the Cowboys, tight end C.J Conrad signed with the Giants, offensive lineman Bunchy Stallings joined Allen and signed with the Jaguars, and Derrick Baity signed with the Texans. 

This year marks the first year a Wildcat has been drafted since Josh Forrest’s selection in 2016 and the first time ever that a Wildcat was selected in each of the first four rounds.