Scouting the Cats in the NFL Draft


Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Josh Allen (41), Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Jones (34) and Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Derrick Baity Jr. (8) celebrate after stopping a Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders play during the game on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at Kroger Field, in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated MTSU 34-23. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

With the NFL Draft coming up in late April, the UK football program has a chance to make a splash.

The Cats could see up to 12 players drafted in Nashville, starting on Thursday, April 25.

“In the neighborhood of 11-12 guys that could potentially get drafted,” Stoops said after a practice before the Citrus Bowl.

No Kentucky players have been selected in the last two drafts since linebacker Josh Forrest went in the sixth round to the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, and only two Cats have been drafted in the first round since Tim Couch was the first overall pick in 1999. Linebacker Bud Dupree’s 22nd overall selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015 is the most recent.

Speaking of linebackers, another Wildcat has a chance to be a first round linebacker– Josh Allen is the highest projected Kentucky player available. According to WalterFootball, he is the top-ranked outside linebacker. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder was named a consensus All-American and was a Bednarik award winner, Nagurski Award winner, Lott IMPACT Trophy winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year winner.

ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have each projected Allen as a top-10 pick. McShay projects Allen going to the Detroit Lions as the ninth overall pick, while Kiper has Allen going to the San Francisco 49ers as the second overall pick.

Allen recognized his potential after the Cats’ 2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl win, when he stated at the end of the press conference, “If I don’t go No. 1 [in the NFL Draft], I don’t know who is.”

Linebacker Jordan Jones is also projected to be selected anywhere from the third to fifth round, according to WalterFootball. In his final season at UK, Jones had 68 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Multiple UK defensive backs could have themselves a day in the draft. Safety Darius West is listed by WalterFootball as being the 20th-best safety available. The site projects him to be a mid-round pick like Jones. West came up with 86 tackles in 2018 and showed his prowess in pass coverage with six interceptions and six broken passes, and he was also invited to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Mike Edwards is also projected to be a mid-round pick. Edwards had 82 tackles with two interceptions and was one of the main leaders on defense.

Cornerbacks Derrick Baity Jr. and Lonnie Johnson Jr. are each projected to be selected as well, according to WalterFootball. The site projects Johnson to be an early to mid-round pick and Baity a projected late-round pick. The duo combined for 60 tackles and nine passes broken up in 2018.

On the other side of the ball, running back Benny Snell Jr. has a chance to rush his way into the NFL. WalterFootball named Snell the third-best running back available. Snell had a dominant season, rushing for 1,449 yards and 16 touchdowns with five yards per carry in 2018, becoming UK’s all-time rushing leader and all-time career rushing touchdown leader.

Tight end C.J. Conrad is listed as the seventh-best tight end available and a projected mid-round pick, according to WalterFootball, and drew comparisons to former UK tight end Jacob Tamme. His 30 receptions for 318 yards in 2018 earned him an East-West Shrine Bowl invitation.

George Asafo-Adjei, Bunchy Stallings, Chris Westry and Dorian Baker are either listed as late-draft picks or undrafted free agents. Pre-combine workouts could help their chances.

1951 saw nine Cats selected in the NFL Draft – the most in school history, but this April presents a chance for UK football to overshadow the 1951 draft.