The Kentucky Wildcats football program has gone through some tough times the past few seasons, going a combined 4-20 in ’12 and ’13, and they haven’t won an SEC game since ’11. Despite that, HC Mark Stoops has been recruiting like a mad man, and has slowly been increasing the talent in Lexington. You might not think there is much pro talent there this year (and you’d be right), but there is some pro talent there regardless. So who are the top prospects for the Wildcats this fall who will be in the 2015 NFL Draft?
Four seniors lead the way in terms of having the most upside eligible for next years draft: WR Javess Blue, OT Darrian Miller and DE’s Alvin Dupree and Za’Darius Smith.
Blue is a tremendous athlete and has an impressive skill set. He has track speed (clocked before at 4.29) and outstanding body control. His hands are strong but could be more consistent, and he’s still learning how to adjust routes based on coverage identification. It’d really be interesting to see how Blue would fare playing with an elite QB, but that’s simply not going to happen between now and the end of this season, unless one of the four QBs challenging for the starting role emerges as the next Andre Woodson. He’s got a ways to go but he’s an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
Miller has been the most stable thing in the Wildcats offense the past few seasons. The 6-foot 5, 292-pounder has started the last 24 games in a row, and has played in 36 in a row total. I like Miller’s athleticism and footwork, and his upside in pass pro, but he needs to get stronger, both in his lower and upper body. Miller is a smart player and a good locker room presence, but he needs to continue his developmental arc this fall.
Dupree has the most upside of Kentucky’s pro prospects. As the leader of the ‘Cats defense the past two seasons, Dupree has been a terror on opposing QBs, racking up 13.5 sacks and 22 TFL’s, playing both DE and OLB. Dupree has put on 45-pounds since high school, and despite that, has gotten faster and quicker each the past three seasons, and there’s no reason to think his senior year shouldn’t be his best.
In terms of pro potential, I think Dupree can play either OLB in a 34 or DE in a 43. Being scheme versatile only boosts his stock, and guys who can consistently pressure the QB never go out of style in the NFL. If he racks up double digit sacks this season and plays to his potential, he could start garnering early round consideration.
Smith is Dupree’s counterpart, and they complement each other well. Smith may not have the quickness or explosion of Dupree, but has a pro-ready frame at 6-foot 6, 270-pounds. The former number one JUCO prospect last year, Smith got off to a lightning start in ’13, racking up 4.5 sacks in his first three games, but struggled as the season went on before finishing strong. Smith is a good athlete with an NFL-caliber skill set, and I like his upside, he just needs to continue on at his current rate of development.