The University of Kentucky's Bud Dupree was selected 22nd by the famed Pittsburgh Steelers in this year's NFL Draft. As you are no doubt well-aware by this point, Dupree is the first Kentucky Wildcat to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2003. That last player was defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson who was drafted by the New York Jets. Prior to him was Tim Couch to the Cleveland Browns in 1998. Dupree was projected to fall somewhere in the teens until the last week or two when he started climbing up mock drafts. He ended up slipping until late in the first round, but if you're going to slip it's a consolation to land at a franchise that has a long track record of being ran properly.
The people at Football Outsiders, who use advanced metrics, rated the Steelers's overall defense as 30th in the NFL last season. The Steelers ideally would have liked a defensive back, but with the top guys already drafted the Steelers selected Dupree. Dupree was drafted to contribute immediately to their defense where he'll almost certainly play the outside linebacker role he did his last season at UK. Initially, his defensive coaches will have to use him wisely in his rookie season, as his strengths are not universal despite what our BBN biases want us to think.
For example, Dupree won't immediately be able to consistently stop a NFL rushing attack that's concentrated on him with pulling linemen or a lead blocker; however, he should immediately be fine in one-on-one pass-rushing situations -- especially as a weak-side edge rusher, or LEO -- and I'm sure his coaches will try to engineer those scenarios whenever possible. Watching Dupree attempt to cover Rob Gronkowski in the playoffs will be fun. Given time, Dupree will improve on his weaknesses just as he did in Lexington.
Dupree's selection is the UK football program's gain, and will be used as a talking point with every linebacker and defensive linemen UK is recruiting at a minimum. His decision to train with UK's High Performance staff to prepare for the combine further reinforces a point made by Avery Williamson last season. As I said after Williamson's surprising combine results came out last February, UK's High Performance program will make you bigger, faster, and stronger if you put in the work. That leads to combine numbers that !!POP!! which contributes to improving draft stock. This year, one of those players went in the first round. That's a good scalp to show off to listless recruits, and their more engaged parents on visits to the football facility later this year.
Since Dupree is now a member of the Steelers, be sure to visit their SB Nation site Behind the Steel Curtain to gauge their reactions, and even weigh-in if you're feeling particularly adventurous at the moment.
Also, stay tuned for the next few days to see when Za'Darius Smith, Braylon Heard, Darrian Miller, Javess Blue, or other UK players get their names called, or sign as undrafted free agents. Some life-long dreams will be achieved this weekend.