2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview

2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview

Several Cats Hope For The Call

Over the last four years, the Kentucky football team has had 17 players drafted. That includes four taken last year and three within the first three rounds. This comes after no Cats were picked in 2017 and 2018. Though many former Wildcats are waiting for their name to be called, the Big Blue Nation’s eyes are set on one person. Let’s break it down with our 2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview.

Where Will He Go?

Probably no player in the 2023 Draft has been more polarizing than Will Levis. Depending on who you ask, he’s either a potential great pro player or he’s the biggest bust. One of the best to ever do it, Peyton Manning, is a huge Levis fan.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have former Florida State signal-caller Danny Kanell who has a differing view. Kannell called Levis “the most overhyped quarterback of the last decade.” Strong words no doubt that struck a nerve with Kentucky fans. We’ll find out soon who’s correct. The question now is where will Levis go?

Projections All Over The Board

The 2023 Draft is unique due to the fact you have four or five quarterbacks slotted to go early. This of course harkens back to 40 years earlier when six were taken in the first round of the 1983 draft. Besides Levis there C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, and Hendon Hooker.

A majority of the mock drafts have the top two picks being Young of Alabama to Carolina and Ohio State’s Stroud going to Houston second or vice versa. However, in recent days there’s been lots of talk that Levis in the equation. In fact, Ceasar’s sports book has him as the second quarterback off the board.

The most likely landing spots have been Indianapolis with the fourth pick and Tennessee with the 11th. With Indy and Nashville being three hours away Cat fans would have no trouble seeing him play.

Some other mocks have him going even further down in the first round. Tampa Bay at 19 and a possible replacement for Tom Brady is an option. In fact, CBS Sports has the Bucs trading up to the ninth pick  to draft Levis. Another destination is Minnesota at 23

Assuming he goes in the first round he’ll be the first Wildcat quarterback taken that early since Tim Couch went number one overall to the then-expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999. The last Kentucky signal caller drafted was Andre Woodson in the sixth round of the 2008 draft.

Whatever happens, Thursday’s first round is definitely “Must See TV.” While Levis is the center of attention as we continue with our 2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview let’s look at some other Cats waiting on a call.

Late Draft Picks

In addition to Levis two other Wildcats are popping up on mock drafts, Cornerback Carrington Valentine and offensive lineman Tashawn Manning. During his three years at Kentucky Valentine made 118 tackles and two sacks. This past season Valentine had 48 tackles, a sack, and an interception. He also led the team with 10 passes defended. He skipped the Music City Bowl after declaring for the NFL Draft.

Valentine didn’t take part in agility drills at the NFL Combine, however, he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash and a 1.52 10-yard split at Kentucky’s pro day. Before pro day, he was expected to be a late Day 3 pick, primarily in the sixth or seventh round. But after his impressive times in the agility drills, there’s a chance he moves up a round or two when the draft happens. The Rams are reportedly interested in Valentine.

The 6-3, 317-pound Manning transferred to Kentucky from Auburn and blossomed while in Lexington. College Football News ranks him as the 15th best interior offensive line prospect and has him going in the sixth round.

As we wrap up our 2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview let’s look at a few more Cats who could be third day selections.

Late Round Steals

Chris Rodriguez, DeAndre Square, Jordan Wright, Jacquez Jones, Keidron Smith, and Tyrell Ajian are all potential late-draft picks. Of the six Rodriguez, Kentucky’s third all-time leading rusher, may have helped his case the most at the school’s pro day. He had a 33-inch vertical leap and clocked an unofficial 4.52 40-yard dash. Others had clocked him as low as 4.46 but still, that’s a great number.

In a draft filled with great running backs, C-Rod showed off his pass-catching ability which can only help him at the next level. Currently, Rodriguez is tabbed as a third-day pick but a strong performance could bump him up.

Final Thoughts

Kentucky’s going to get lots of attention during Thursday’s first round because of Levis. Day two’s likely to be pretty quiet while Day three looks very active. We’ll have complete coverage of the NFL Draft here at Last Word On College Football. Thanks for checking out our 2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview.

 

2023 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview

Photo courtesy: Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal and USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK