Known more for their elite basketball program, the University of Kentucky football team hadn’t produced a first-round pick since Dewayne Robertson went fourth overall in 2003. Last weekend, Alvin “Bud” Dupree broke the streak by going 22nd overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hope the edge rusher ends up being much better than mega-bust Robertson.
Dupree and fellow defensive end Za’Darius Smith ended up being the only two Wildcats to get drafted this season. That’s actually an improvement, as Larry Warford was the only Wildcat to get drafted in 2013 and Avery Williamson was the lone UK draftee last year.
With both defensive stars landing in the AFC North, it’ll be interesting to see how their careers develop. Let’s take a look at Kentucky’s two draftees along with the school’s two notable undrafted free agents.
Alvin “Bud” Dupree, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (1st round, 22nd overall)
Inevitably, one of the edge rushers was going to fall. And while Bud Dupree didn’t tumble as far as Randy Gregory, the fact he went 22nd definitely raised some eyebrows. Hailed as a possible top-10 pick after tearing up the combine, Dupree slid to the Steelers, who jumped at the chance to add one of the best all-around athletes in the draft.
Tipping the scales at 6’4”, 269 pounds, Dupree wowed scouts by running a 4.56 40-yard dash before adding an insane 42” vertical and 11’6” broad jump. His explosive athleticism and long frame make him an ideal fit in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. Despite his immense measurables, Dupree is a raw prospect who isn’t a ready-made pass rusher. Hopefully he turns out better than 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones, another SEC star who hasn’t been able to translate his skills to the NFL.
Za’Darius Smith, DE, Baltimore Ravens (4th round, 122nd overall)
The only other Wildcat to get drafted, Smith looks like Ozzie Newsome’s hand-picked replacement for Pernell McPhee. The “other” defensive end at Kentucky, Smith isn’t quite the same athlete as Dupree, but he should thrive as a movable chess piece in Baltimore’s creative defense.
The 6’4”, 274-pounder showed solid athleticism at the combine and plays a powerful game. A former basketball player, Smith is just scratching the surface of his potential and should only improve playing next to Terrell Suggs, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. Capable of playing on the edge or moving inside, Smith’s versatility will be welcomed in Baltimore, where the team lost not only McPhee but also Haloti Ngata this offseason.
Darrian Miller, OT, Cleveland Browns (undrafted free agent)
Listed as a possible late-round pick, Miller ended up going undrafted but did earn a contract with the Browns. The fact he didn’t hear his name called after starting 37 games at left tackle was mildly surprising. However, Miller tested poorly in pre-draft workouts (just 16 reps on the bench) and lacks the core strength to be an effective player. Given his size (6’5”, 307), he could move inside to guard and try to latch on to Cleveland’s practice squad.
Braylon Heard, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (free agent tryout)
Given how stacked the running back class was, Heard’s decision to enter the draft with a year of eligibility remaining was a shock. Ultimately, that move didn’t pay off for Kentucky’s second-leading rusher from a year ago. After showing limited explosion at the combine—4.63 40-yard dash, 30.5” vertical, 9’8” broad jump—the home-run hitting back sort of fell off the map. The former Nebraska transfer didn’t hear his name called and ended up only earning a spot as one of 27 tryout players at Bucs minicamp.