Cats are targets of scrutiny again in NFL Draft

Column by Jonathan Smith

UK’s departing class of football players had been hated on for a long time before making back-to-back Music City Bowl appearances. The hating quieted the more they won, but the hating is picking back up again.

The NFL Draft is this weekend, and for the players that have a legitimate chance to be selected, many critics have voiced concerns about their playing ability.

For those players, now is not the time to worry about that. They had four years on the playing field and the last four months on the practice field to prove they can play.

But doubts still remain about these players. Their goal now should be to prove all the haters wrong.

I have no idea what these players will do in the NFL. But I do know they orchestrated a major revival of the UK football program, and performance on the football field should mean more than what players do at the NFL Combine.

Here’s what is being said about the players on their pages on’s draft section:

Andre Woodson looks uncomfortable taking charge in the huddle. Woodson struggles some with his accuracy in the short area. He is too patient in the pocket, which results in sacks.

All that may be true, but Woodson threw 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, compared to Boston College’s Matt Ryan tossing 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Rafael Little lacks a second gear to outrun defenders in the open field. He doesn’t have the leg drive to break tackles. He tends to take too long to take the ball through the rush lanes.

Little is also one of only three players in Southeastern Conference history to gain more than 2,500 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards despite being oft injured.

Keenan Burton doesn’t turn quick enough when catching the ball over his inside shoulder. He also needs to time his leaps better in the deep zone.

He managed to overcome all of those deficiencies to catch the second-most touchdowns in UK history.

Steve Johnson doesn’t get off the snap fast enough. He drops easily catchable passes. He also needs to work on his route running techniques.

Try telling that to Louisville and Louisiana State.

Jacob Tamme has a tough time getting into his routes. He’s too undersized to make an impact as a blocker. He doesn’t show enough aggression going for the ball.

But Tamme was named as the top tight end in the nation’s best conference two years in a row.

Wesley Woodyard has a very small frame to play linebacker. He plays out of control. He gets swallowed at the point of attack.

Like Tamme, Woodyard was the best linebacker in the nation’s best conference, leading the SEC in tackles two years in a row.

What does all of that mean? It means something. But if I were drafting, it wouldn’t mean much.

What a player does on the field should outweigh everything else. All of these players have proven that they can compete with anyone.

For some reason, though, there is a lot of doubt surrounding these guys. When their names are called this weekend, they’ll have a chance to quiet the haters.