The NFL Draft will open on Thursday evening with – in all likelihood – the Cincinnati Bengals anointing Heisman winner Joe Burrow the first overall pick.
The number two pick appears fairly set in stone as well. But when, and potentially where, will former Wildcats like Lynn Bowden and Logan Stenberg be selected?
No player from last year’s roster is viewed as a first-round pick, let alone a sure-fire one like Josh Allen was in 2019. Luckily for the Wildcats who are moving on, players don’t have to be picked on day one to make an impact or a lot of money (Za’Darius Smith, fourth-round pick in 2015; Randall Cobb, second-round pick in 2011). In fact, players don’t necessarily have to be picked at all (Wesley Woodyard went undrafted in 2008 before signing with the Denver Broncos).
Without further ado, here is when and where some notable Kentucky players could be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft:
Lynn Bowden III, WR
The electrifying Youngstown product notably started at quarterback for Kentucky’s final eight games of 2019, but he will not be behind center at the next level. He is projected to be a slot receiver in the league but could also be used for trick plays like former Steeler Antwaan Randle El and former Ole Miss standout Dexter McCluster. Bowden is taller and heavier than both of those players, but the skillset and ability he possesses is similar. McCluster and Randle El were both picked in round two, but Bowden is more likely to go in the third or fourth round. That’s not to say he doesn’t end up hearing his name called that soon.
• Bleacher Report RD 3, #92 – Ravens
• DraftWire/USA Today RD 4, #123 – Cowboys
• Sports Illustrated RD 4, #125 – Patriots
• CBS Sports RD 4, #145 – Eagles
• NFL.com RD 5, #171 – Texans
“The position designation of WR does him no real justice. The NFL club that selects him… will be getting a much more diverse threat. One that can line up wide or flourish from the slot, one that can be dangerous running with fly sweeps, throwing passes on gadget plays, returning kickoffs or punts.” – Chase Goodbread, The Complicated Evaluation of WR Lynn Bowden.
Logan Stenberg, G
Stenberg started the final three seasons of his Kentucky career at left guard, not missing any of the Wildcats 39 games over that stretch. He’s regarded as a power lineman/mauler as opposed to a finesse one, which I’m sure nobody is shocked to hear. He drew quite a few penalties while in blue and white, including some personal fouls, which could have teams a little concerned. Outside of Bowden himself, he may have benefitted the most from Kentucky’s offensive transition for the final two months of the season. In an interview with DraftWire, he said he believes staying on the interior of the offensive line at the next level “makes the most sense for all parties involved.” Most likely an earlier day three (fourth/fifth round) pick.
• DraftWire/USA Today RD 3, #74 – Browns
• Sports Illustrated RD 4, #118 – Broncos
• Bleacher Report RD 4, #134 – Broncos*
• CBS Sports RD 4, #138 – Chiefs
• NFL.com RD 5, #174 – Titans
*The Broncos traded this pick to the Ravens. The Ravens then traded it to the Falcons. It is currently in the Falcons possession.
“He’s an old-time player. They just want to get in the dirt… Tough, nasty mauler type… I don’t like this guy as an athlete, but I like him as a player. These guys line up and play.” – Anonymous scout, McGinn’s NFL Draft Series.
Calvin Taylor Jr., DL
Taylor tied for second in the SEC in sacks (8.5) during his final season in Lexington, starting all 13 games as a defensive tackle. He was tenth in the country – and tied for first in the SEC – with three forced fumbles, and also recorded four pass breakups. Each of these facts make it all the more surprising that he did not receive an invite to the Senior Bowl or NFL combine. He was relying on the Kentucky Pro Day to make a name for himself, but that was canceled due to COVID-19. It’s not often a player with Taylor’s production is seemingly not only under the radar, but off it completely - especially in the conference that many regard as the best in college football.
Taylor did not appear in any of the mock drafts previously listed. It’s possible a team thinks of him as a hidden gem and selects him late on day three (sixth/seventh round), but he will most likely have to make do as an undrafted free agent.
“Should be drafted… he flashed more than most SEC D-line guys, PLAYING IN THE SEC, and yet he cannot get the time of day right now. It’s a shame.” R.C. Fischer, NFL Draft Scouting Report: DT Calvin Taylor
Ahmad Wagner, WR/TE
In terms of draft stock, if Stenberg was the biggest benefactor of Kentucky’s transition to Bowden, Wagner may have been the biggest casualty. The former basketball player at Iowa caught just three passes for six yards over the final eight games after snagging nine for 198 yards in the first three, which is when Kentucky’s natural quarterbacks were healthy. At 6-foot-5 and 234 pounds, Wagner has ideal size to be a red zone target. Teams also love players who can draw pass interference penalties, which Wagner did on 12 of his 42 career targets to earn the affectionate “Ahmad Flagner” nickname from portions of Big Blue Nation. Like Taylor, his opportunity to demonstrate his ability at Kentucky’s pro day was canceled.
Wagner was not picked in any of the mock drafts previously listed. He is mentioned in the Athletic’s Bob McGinn’s NFL Draft Series as a tight end. If teams try to move him there, my personal player-comp for him would be Darren Waller.
Waller entered the league as a sixth-round pick for the Ravens after playing receiver at Georgia Tech, another offense that does not traditionally throw the ball frequently. He transitioned to tight end his second year in the league, making minimal impact in Baltimore before exploding as a member of the Oakland Raiders in 2019, hauling in 90 receptions for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns.
Wagner will probably go undrafted, but like Taylor, could be a late pick in day three depending on how franchises view his long-term potential. He is exactly the type of player teams love to stash on their practice squad.
“[He] has an extremely high percentage of positive plays when targeted… it wouldn’t be surprising if a team used a day three pick on Wagner to avoid competing with other teams trying to sign him.” Dane Brugler, the Athletic NFL Draft Analyst, October 7, 2019.
Kash Daniel, LB
Daniel’s senior year was not as productive as his junior campaign for a myriad of reasons. Despite missing the first game of his career last year, he continued to fight through injuries to stay on the field, demonstrating just how deep his love for the game runs. He tallied eight tackles in both the Belk Bowl and Citrus Bowl victories, which were Kentucky’s first consecutive seasons with bowl wins since 2007-2008.
The heart and soul of Kentucky’s defense the past couple of seasons, he did not appear in any of the mock drafts previously listed. Daniel was eager for the opportunity provided by Kentucky's pro day just as Taylor and Wagner were.
“It can take you from being a free agent, to maybe a late round draft pick,” he told WKYT earlier this year. “That little jump makes a whole lot of difference.”
Odds are that the senior linebacker goes undrafted. He’ll be expected to make a contribution on special teams if he wants to earn a roster spot.
“It’s a weird time… people are saying not to do this and that, but they never said anything about hunting or fishing… so bass fishing ain’t canceled, baby.” – Kash Daniel to WKYT, March 19, 2020.