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2025 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview

2025 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview

Potential Big Year For The Cats

The recently completed NFL Draft was another successful one for the Kentucky football program with four players selected. Over the last five years, Mark Stoops‘ team has had 22 players chosen. It’s never too early to look ahead and next year’s draft could be one of the biggest ever. Let’s take an early look at where things stand with our 2025 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview.

Off The Board Quickly?

The Wildcats’ draft buzz starts with Deone Walker. The 6-foot-6, 348-pound defensive lineman recorded 55 tackles, including 12.5 for a loss. In addition, he had 7.5 sacks and even had two passes defended. As a result, Walker was a first-team All-SEC selection and was on the watch lists for both the Outland and Nakurski Trophies.

Currently, Pro Football Focus ranks Walker as the fifth-best prospect in America. Many other early mock drafts have him a solid top-10 pick. If it comes to fruition he would be the first Wildcat taken in the first round since Jamin Davis went 19th to Washington in 2021. Taking it a step further he’d be the first top-10 pick since Jacksonville drafted Josh Allen seventh in 2019. Assuming Walker has a stellar season he’s likely an early first-day pick.

Continuing on with our 2025 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview let’s look at a couple of more players who could go early.

Possible Second-Day Picks

If you remember J.J. Weaver went through “Senior Day” festivities back in 2022. He returned for 2023 and ended on a high note being named MVP of the Governor’s Cup win over Louisville. He followed that up with a strong showing in the Gator Bowl. That’s why many were surprised when Weaver elected to return for his extra “COVID” campaign.

A season ago he finished with 45 tackles, with 8.5 for a loss to go along with seven sacks. That number put him seventh in the SEC. A strong 2024 should put him in the middle rounds of next year’s draft.

Much like his fellow linebacker Trevin Wallace, many thought D’Eryk Jackson might head for the pros. However, he’s not only returning but has two years of eligibility remaining. The Wildcats’ leading tackler for the last two years, Jackson racked up 89 stops, with eight for a loss. In addition, he made two sacks,  picked off two passes returning one for a score. Another big season should see him come off the board on day two much like Wallace this year.

Keeping The Tradition Going

When Andru Phillips went to the New York Giants he became the fourth cornerback chosen since Brad White became defensive coordinator in 2019. Kentucky is building a reputation as a defensive back school. That should continue in the 2025 draft.

Maxwell Hairston burst onto the national scene a year ago with a huge season. The sophomore led the team with 55 solo tackles and third overall with 68. Even more impressive he led the SEC with five interceptions and two picks returned for touchdowns. Pro Football Network ranks him as the 77th-best prospect. If Hairston comes anywhere close to his numbers from a season ago he’s a likely pick.

Two other Cats, Zion Childress and JQ Hardaway could also play their way into a late-round selection.

We’ve spent this whole time talking about the defense but what about the other side of the ball? As we continue with our 2025 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview let’s move to the offense.

The Dynamic Duo

Any look at possible NFL Draft picks starts with junior wide receivers Barion Brown and Dane Key. A season ago both had their struggles and seemed to never get in sync with quarterback Devin Leary. However, the coaching staff raved about how both looked in the spring.

Brown led the team in receptions with 43, tied for second with four touchdowns, and was third in yards with 539. However, his special teams play could enhance his chances at the next level. A season ago Brown led not only the SEC but the nation with a 36-yard per kickoff return average. In addition, he led everyone with three returns for a score.

Key led the Wildcats with 636 receiving yards and six touchdowns. His 42 catches placed him one behind his teammate. Key has a knack for making big plays and his numbers should only improve if they are on the same page with new signal caller Brock Vandagriff. Pro Football Network ranks Brown as the 48th best prospect in football and Key 59th.

Let’s finish up our Early 2025 Kentucky NFL Draft Preview with a couple of more players who could leverage big years into being drafted.

In The Spotlight

Speaking of Vandagriff, after two years of playing the backup role at Georgia he finally gets a shot at being QB1. A dual threat player he has the tools to be very good, and Cats fans are excited to see him on the field. With a spectacular season in Bush Hamdan’s offense could he be a “one and done” in football?

Right behind Vandagriff in the backfield is running back Chip Trayanum. In two years at Arizona State and then two years at Ohio State he’s never been the leading back. The 5-foot-11, 235-pounder finally gets his shot in Lexington this year. Kentucky has a history of putting backs into the league and Trayanum could be next.

UK’s also had success putting offensive linemen in the NFL and Eli Cox, Marques Cox, and Jager Burton all fit that bill.

Final Thoughts

Kentucky had six players drafted in 2021, setting a modern record. The 2025 draft could equal or top that. What makes it interesting is that there’s not a great deal of buzz around the 2024 Cats, but could see a record number of players taken. However many of them are underclassmen which could have a major effect on the 2025 club.

Thanks for checking out our 2024 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll examine how the Cats have used the portal to fill positions of need.

2025 Early Kentucky NFL Draft Preview
Photo courtesy: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports


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