This weekend not only will the Kentucky Wildcats see their first player selected in the NFL Draft since Josh Forrest in 2016, the program is set to send multiple players to the highest level of professional football.
The Wildcats have not seen more than four players drafted since 1979. 40 years later, the Wildcats are poised not just to have four draftees, but perhaps as many as 10 or 12 players selected, including two potential first-round selections.
Where will each soon-to-be NFL Cat land? Here’s my best crack at predicting the landing spots as well as which Wildcats may have to wait until after the Draft to find their NFL home.
EDGE Josh Allen: First Round (5th Overall) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Many have speculated that Allen would be the Jets’ choice at third overall, however, it seems that New York will either select Houston’s Ed Oliver or move down in the draft by trading with a quarterback-needy team such as the Washington Redskins or New York Giants.
Thus, with the Cardinals likely to select Kyler Murray, the 49ers almost certainly going Nick Bosa afterward and the Raiders always seemingly doing something crazy, I’ll say Allen lands in Tampa Bay to play under one of the NFL’s best defensive minds in new Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
CB Lonnie Johnson: First Round (29th Overall) Seattle Seahawks
Yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks traded pass-rusher Frank Clark to obtain a second first-round draft choice. They hold both the 21st and 29th overall picks in this year’s draft, and with their second first rounder, I see them taking Lonnie Johnson, Jr.
The Seahawks love tall, athletic cornerbacks and have the need for one; thus; Johnson is nearly a perfect fit. Johnson met with Seattle during the pre-draft process, and afterwards, he told reporters that he was asked to participate in a staring contest with a team representative.
He won the staring contest, and I see him winning over the Seahawks’ war-room and becoming one of their first-round selections.
S Mike Edwards: Fourth Round (108th Overall) New York Giants
Mike Edwards is perhaps the most underrated Wildcat in this year’s draft class. In his four years at Kentucky, he proved to be one of the SEC’s best safeties. Though he may not hear his name until day three of the draft, I see him landing in a place where he can compete for a starting job from day one.
The New York Giants let Landon Collins walk in free-agency, and despite adding Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, they can still use help at the safety position. Edwards posted pictures on his Instagram story last week on his visit to New York and though there haven’t been any reports on how the meetings went, I view him as a perfect fit for a Giants team looking to add young talent to their defense.
S Darius West: Fifth Round (156th Overall) Denver Broncos
Darius West is another one of the more under-the-radar prospects from Kentucky in this year’s draft. The safety turned heads at the NFL Combine with an outstanding 4.39 40-yard dash time, which I believe will move him into the fifth round of this year’s draft.
As for a landing spot, I’ll go with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have been looking at help at the safety position since they won the Super Bowl in 2016. With the offense having more needs than their defense, expect them to go offense early and defense late. Thus, the safety position should still be a need come the fifth round, and there’s a good chance West will be the top safety on the board when Denver’s on the clock here.
RB Benny Snell: Sixth Round (196th Overall) New York Jets
The Snell legacy continuing in New York? Snell Yeah. The nephew of Jets Super Bowl champion running back Matt Snell, Benny Snell would be the perfect complement to Le’Veon Bell in the Jets backfield, as the team currently lacks any depth at the running back position behind the new starter.
New York can use Snell to grind out yards while Bell needs a breather, and potentially in the red zone when they are looking to pound the ball up the middle rather than throw to the receiving back Bell.
If Snell indeed lands in New York, expect “Benny and the Jets” to play on the MetLife Stadium sound speakers each time the Kentucky all-time leading rusher finds the end zone.
TE C.J. Conrad: Sixth Round (202nd Overall) New Orleans Saints
Ever since the Saints traded Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks they have been looking for help at the tight end position. However, as long as Drew Brees is under center, the Saints will not pick any offensive weapons early in the draft. They like to beef up their defense and go offense later as Brees can seemingly make anyone he throws to look like a Pro-Bowler.
With that said, C.J. Conrad and the Saints are a match made in heaven. Conrad is a stellar pass-catcher and reliable blocker who, in New Orleans, can catch passes for one of the best quarterbacks of all-time and block for one of the NFL’s best running backs in Alvin Kamara.
CB Derrick Baity: Seventh Round (247th Overall) Minnesota Vikings
Though I personally believe Derick Baity is far too talented to drop to the seventh round, not many draft boards have seen him any higher. Thus, I’ll project the same and say he finds a home with the team that met with him at the East-West Shrine game: the Minnesota Vikings.
In this stage in the draft, teams are looking for the best available player and if Baity is sitting here when the Vikings pick comes up, I’m sure they’ll remember meeting and scouting the 6’3 corner.
CB Chris Westry: Seventh Round (254th Overall) Arizona Cardinals
Will 2019’s Mr. Irrelevant be a product of Kentucky? I’ll say yes. After an outstanding Pro Day that saw the 6’4 corner post a 38-inch vertical and a run a 4.31-second 40-yard dash just weeks after being snubbed from the NFL Combine, I see Westry sneaking into the Draft thanks to his athleticism and size.
Undrafted Free Agents: Bunchy Stallings, Jordan Jones, George Asafo-Adjei
There’s a decent chance all three of these players do end up getting drafted, but I haven’t personally seen enough buzz to say they will for sure. Regardless, all three of these players should hear their phones ring soon after the conclusion of the Draft as they will receive well-earned NFL Training Camp invites.