Forgive Kentucky associate head coach Vince Marrow for being almost giddy when he even thinks about the upcoming NFL draft April 25-27 in Nashville.
For a team that has had just three first-round picks in the last 20 years (Tim Couch, Dewayne Robertson and Bud Dupree) and only eight picks total in the last eight years (none the last two years), Kentucky could have two first-round picks this year and between eight and 10 players selected by the time the draft ends.
“We have never had people drafted (some years) and now every day you are going to see our logo and see these guys get drafted,” said Marrow. “I never thought Josh Allen, Mike Edwards and C.J. Conrad would stay this year (at Kentucky for a senior season instead of going to the NFL draft) and that was biggest recruiting thing we ever did. We got the benefits of a great season and now those guys and more are going to get the benefits at the draft.”
What Benny did in this conference, that’s amazing. I don’t care how you spin it. Same with Josh, Lonnie and all these guys. I can’t wait for the draft...
Allen, the consensus national defensive player of the year, is viewed as “no worse” than the No. 3 pick overall and most mock drafts have him going second.
“NFL people want to know what kind of kid they are getting for all this money. I tell them he is one of the most humble kids I have ever seen. When he decided to come back (for his senior season), Josh could have been running around here, going to clubs, hanging out, chasing girls. He was totally opposite. He was leading the married, professional life going into his senior year,” Marrow said.
Cornerback Lonnie Johnson has been one of the draft’s rising stars to where he’s now viewed as a potential first-round pick by some but others still have him projected in rounds three to five. Count Marrow as a Johnson believer based on what NFL scouts have told him.
“This kid is a freakin’ 6-3, 210 and can run. I think there are good corners in the this draft but I think if you look at the upside they all have, Lonnie Johnson is the best,” Marrow said. “I am hearing he is on some (draft) boards in the 20 to 25 range (in the first round).”
Running back Benny Snell, UK’s all-time leading rusher, is only projected as the 10th best running back by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper and is projected as a third or fourth round pick. His best time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine was 4.65 seconds – below average for NFL running backs.
Marrow says one NFL general manager says no one should “doubt” Snell.
“If teams overlook our guys, especially 26 (Snell) and you pass on him, you are going to regret it,” Marrow said. “He is going to play. I am not saying people will pass because a lot of people like Benny. His play speaks for itself.”
Same with tight end C.J. Conrad, another mid-round projection. He was viewed as one of the nation’s top tight ends going into the 2018 season but his lack of catches (30) have lowered the 6-5, 252-pound Conrad’s draft stock.
“He started four years here and has blocked some guys you see in the NFL now,” Marrow said. “What we did with him was kind of a disservice to him but he did what was best for the team. He could have caught 50 balls here but he did what was best for the team and did it without complaining.”
Conrad didn't get to work out at the combine after a heart abnormality was discovered. Conrad insisted that would not derail his NFL career.
Safety Mike Edwards, safety Darius West, cornerback Derrick Baity and linebacker Jordan Jones all also got invited to the NFL combine and could be mid to late round picks. Offensive linemen Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo-Adjei have also drawn interest from some NFL teams.
“What if we ended up having 10 guys drafted?” Marrow said. “Some people are still questioning Benny, C.J. and others. Check Alabama or Ohio State. Getting that many guys drafted is the norm. What we have done here is build that. What Benny did in this conference, that’s amazing. I don’t care how you spin it. Same with Josh, Lonnie and all these guys. I can’t wait for the draft and to see that (Kentucky) logo up there so much and to have others wondering what the heck is going on because they didn’t pay attention to us the last few years.”