Potential Big Weekend For The Wildcats
Over the last few years one of the mottos for Kentucky Football is “recruit and develop.” In the nine years Mark Stoops has been in Lexington the quality of players for the Wildcats have gone up drastically. As a result more and more Wildcats are hearing their names called on draft day. The 2021 draft beginning on Thursday night should be no different. In fact it could be a history making one. Let’s break down all the possibilities with our 2021 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview. First let’s show you what the school hopes to equal this weekend.
Not Since The 1970’s
If you go through the history of Kentucky football, one year which always comes to mind is 1977. Before 2018 that was the last time the Cats won 10 games in a season and had a winning record in the SEC. In addition it’s also the last time Kentucky had two first round draft picks. Warren Bryant went to the Atlanta Falcons with the sixth pick. He went on to play eight years in the NFL including an All-Rookie selection in 1977. Twenty slots later wide receiver Randy Burke went to the Baltimore Colts. Over his four year career he hauled in 30 passes for 489 yards and three touchdowns. Now that we’ve told you a little Kentucky draft history let’s now look at the two potential first rounders.
A Pair Of First Rounders?
Heading into the 2020 season Jamin Davis was considered a backup linebacker to Chris Oats. However Oats suffered a severe medical condition and was unable to play. Davis took advantage of the expanded playing time with a huge season. Racking up 102 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown. As a result he won our pick as Kentucky’s defensive player of the year.
Following his junior season Davis declared for the draft. Considered a third round pick at the beginning of the process, he’s rocketed up the boards after a very impressive pro day. Both ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Fansided have Davis going to the Washington Football Team with the 19th pick. In addition, Walter Football has Miami taking him one pick earlier. Other mock drafts have him going in the second or even third rounds but it’s doubtful he falls that far.
The fastest recent riser on @MelKiperESPN's board is Kentucky LB Jamin Davis.
At his Pro Day today he checked in a 6-4, 234 pounds with a 42" vertical and 4.41 40 time.
Could be the second LB off the board in the first round.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 31, 2021
Another First Round Pick?
Along with Davis the other potential Wildcat first rounder is Kelvin Joseph. His one season in Lexington was certainly an interesting one. After sitting out a year following his transfer from LSU Joseph struggled during the early part of the season. However he really turned it on over the next few games picking off four passes including one for a touchdown. That ranked him second in the SEC and fourth in the nation. Another season highlight came in the game against Alabama where he allowed zero receptions on three targets with one interception. Joseph opted out of Kentucky’s last two contests in order to concentrate on the NFL Draft.
His draft projections range all over the place with a high of the 16th pick to Arizona from Fansided. Kansas City’s another possibility with the 31st pick. From there CBS Sports, Pro Football Network, NFL Network and Walter Football all have him going in the second round. Carolina, Miami and New England are all projected teams of interest. The one outlier is the Sporting News which has him in the sixth round. Jackson is a definite high-risk, high-reward type of player who has all the tools NFL scouts are looking for.
As we continue our 2021 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview let’s now look at possible landing spots for members of the “Big Blue Wall.”
Future Building Blocks
Two other former Wildcats getting a lot of NFL Draft buzz are offensive linemen Drake Jackson and Landon Young. Both guys had stellar seasons which only enhanced their draft prospects. While the former center didn’t take part in all of the pro day activities Jackson still looks like a mid round pick. He was a second team All-SEC player in 2020 and honorable mention All-American. Furthermore Pro Football Focus ranked him as fifth highest rated center last season. Possible destinations include Green Bay, Houston, Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
If and when Jackson is chosen, he’ll be the first Kentucky center taken since Dermontti Dawson went to Pittsburgh as the 44th pick in the 1988 draft. Of course his career turned out pretty well as he was a seven time pro-bowler and inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2012.
As for his running mate, Young had a very good pro day showing he had fully recovered from a torn ACL which cost him the 2018 season. The coaches named Young first team All-SEC following last season. The tackle is considered a sixth to seventh round pick with Buffalo, Chicago, Jacksonville and Green Bay as possible landing spots. Wildcat offensive linemen have gone in each of the last two drafts and it’s a good bet both are chosen this weekend.
Wrapping up our 2021 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview, we look at some other players who could go in the draft.
Late Round Steals
Several other Cats have a good shot at a late round pick. Defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna, defensive back Brandin Echols, linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson and punter Max Duffy could all have their name called. Bohanna has the size that suits the NFL. Mock drafts have Green Bay and Philadelphia as possible landing spots for Echols. Kentucky linebackers have done very well at the next level over the years which bodes well for Watson. Denver is a possible location for him. Finally as the 2019 Ray Guy Award winner Duffy could help any club with a bad punting game. The Cleveland Browns are the first team that comes to mind. Even if some of these guys along with running back A.J. Rose and defensive lineman Phil Hoskins aren’t selected they are certain free agent signings.
Over the last two years Kentucky’s had seven players drafted including five in 2019. That’s after having zero players taken in 2017 and 2018. The most players the Cats have had drafted in modern history is seven in 1978 and six in 1979. They’ve got an excellent chance of equaling one or both of those marks this week. Again it goes back to the “recruit and develop” mentality of Stoops and the coaching staff.
Thanks for checking out our 2021 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll have updates as the process goes on and a full recap for you after it’s over.