When Kentucky football failed to get a single player chosen in the 2017 NFL Draft, recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow took to Twitter to vow that would change.
"Big shout out and thanks to seniors that signed yesterday," Marrow tweeted. "But I guarantee from now on we will not have an undrafted player. With 18 young returning starters who competed in the best conference in the country on a team that made it (to) a bowl game, #BBN get ready."
Well, the 2018 NFL Draft comes to Big D on Thursday, the start of a three-day Dallas spectacle that grows by the year. The site changes, but the essentials remain the same. Thirty-two teams, over seven rounds, will choose the best talent available.
And unless there is an upset somewhere along the way, for the second consecutive year Kentucky will not have a player drafted.
That should change in 2019 when the likes of Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, C.J. Conrad and Jordan Jones, if not others, will have finished their Kentucky football careers. Junior running back Benny Snell will be eligible for next year's draft, should he choose that route.
For now, however, when it comes to recruiting and developing NFL-ready talent, there continues to be a gap between not just Kentucky and the SEC but the archrival down the road, as well.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has three Louisville Cardinals listed in his top 100 prospects. Cornerback Jaire Alexander is at No. 12. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is at No. 23. Offensive tackle Geron Christian, a junior, is at No. 81. All three could easily be chosen in the first three rounds.
That would continue a trend. Since 2010, Louisville has had 21 players selected in the NFL Draft, compared to 11 for Kentucky. Since 2014, a total of 17 Cardinals have been drafted compared to four Wildcats. On the latter timeline, Louisville has produced five first-round picks compared to just UK's Bud Dupree in 2015.
Now you know why Louisville has won six of the last seven Governor's Cup games between the two schools.
Kentucky faces a similar uphill climb in its own conference. It is a rare occasion when the SEC does not lead all other leagues in players picked, even if the Cats haven't provided much help.
The SEC had 53 players chosen in the 2017 NFL Draft. Kentucky and South Carolina were the lone league schools not to produce a pick. A total of 51 SEC players were taken in 2016, with linebacker Josh Forrest (sixth round to the Rams) the only Cat to hear his name called. In 2015, Kentucky did have two players picked — Bud Dupree in the first round; Za'Darius Smith in the fourth — among 54 selected from the SEC.
A junior-college transfer, Smith remains the only Mark Stoops UK signee drafted. To be fair, the Kentucky coach has signed only two classes (2013 and 2014) eligible as seniors. Stoops was hired two months before the 2013 signing day. And his three most heralded 2014 signees fell short, for different reasons.
Defensive lineman Matt Elam, the school's first top-100 signee since Micah Johnson in 2006, never developed into a regular. Quarterback Drew Barker injured his back his redshirt sophomore season. Star running back Boom Williams left after a breakout junior year but failed to get drafted or make an NFL roster.
Prospective future picks Allen, Conrad and Jordan Jones were part of UK's 2015 class, Stoops' best talent haul. True, it's early, but there's a definite chance 2019 will see at least a trio of Kentucky draft picks for the first time since 2010.
Plus, while a lack of draft picks may offer judgment on a program's past talent level, it doesn't always predict what's to come. Look at Georgia. There was just one Bulldog chosen in the 2017 NFL Draft. In January of 2018, however, Georgia was playing Alabama for the national championship.
Perhaps Marrow was a year early.
UK players selected in NFL Draft since 2008