Who is up and who is down — from a state of Kentucky perspective — following the 2017 NFL Draft:
Up: Western Kentucky University. In offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (second round, No. 38 overall to the Los Angeles Chargers) and wide receiver Taywan Taylor (third round, No. 72 overall to the Tennessee Titans), WKU produced the two highest draft picks in school history.
Since 2013, Western — a program that did not even begin playing FBS football until 2009 — has had eight players chosen in NFL drafts.
In the same time period, Kentucky — a charter member of the regal SEC — has had five players drafted.
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Over the past two years, WKU — which, as a member of Conference USA, does not enjoy the abundant spoils of power-five conference membership — has had five players taken in NFL drafts.
In the same time period, Louisville — which is in its third season as a member of the upper-crust ACC — has had three players selected.
Down: University of Kentucky football. For the first time since 2007, UK did not have a player hear his name called in the NFL Draft.
Kentucky was one of 11 power-five conference schools — Arizona, Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia were the others — that did not have a player drafted.
That is not a list any program aspiring to upward mobility wants to be on.
If you are looking for a glass half-full, UK was the only one of those 11 power-five teams with no 2017 NFL draftee that had a winning record (7-6) in 2016. For The Long Suffering UK Football Fans, perhaps that suggests there is NFL-quality talent in the lower grades of Coach Mark Stoops’ program.
Up: WKU player evaluation. It’s been a revolving door on the head coach’s office at WKU since 2012 — Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino, Jeff Brohm and now Mike Sanford — but the Hilltoppers have sustained a consistent knack for astute player evaluation and development.
Consider: Of the eight players from Western chosen in the NFL Draft since 2013, five were two-star recruits according to Rivals. com and one did not have a recruiting ranking.
Down: Boom Williams and Jon Toth. The two most prominent UK candidates to be drafted will instead have to make the league as undrafted free agents.
Cats star running back Williams turned pro after his junior season in spite of the 2017 draft being stacked with elite ball carriers — Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery, Dalvin Cook. Boom will now try to make the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster.
Toth’s fate was surprising. Almost every reputable mock draft had the standout Kentucky center being chosen.
If Williams and Toth are looking for a glass half-full, some notable undrafted free agents who have gone on to have meaningful NFL careers in recent years have come from programs in our state.
Up: Kentucky high school football. Western wideout Taylor, a Pleasure Ridge Park product, and Michigan defensive back Jeremy Clark (sixth round, No. 197 overall to the New York Jets), who played at Madisonville, gave the commonwealth two homegrown players drafted in 2017.
Down: University of Louisville football. In 2014, U of L produced three first-round draft picks. The following year, Louisville had a whopping 10 players chosen.
Conversely, over the past two years Louisville has had only three players total chosen in NFL drafts — and one of them was long snapper Colin Holba (sixth round, No. 213 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers) this year. Safety/linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (seventh round, No. 230 to the Washington Redskins), a transfer from Georgia, also got the Cardinals on the draft board for 2017.
Like Stoops at UK, Bobby Petrino and U of L can’t be thrilled with having such a meager impact on the NFL Draft.