The 2023 NFL Draft has came and went for yet another year, and the (Kentucky) Wildcats have extended their streak to now 5 straight drafts where they've had at least one player selected within the first three rounds of the event. Three total Wildcats went drafted, three more were signed as UDFA's after the conclusion of the seven rounds. We'll get into those names in just a moment, but before that, let's talk.
It's been a fun few days covering the NFL Draft I'd say. I do use the word "fun" with some precautionary measures surrounding it, though. On one hand it's really fun because Kentucky Football fans expecting their players to get drafted is something that hasn't always been the 'norm' around here, but over the last half-decade, it has became the new expectation. While we're grateful to be in this position, we still want more. I guess that's just human nature to be greedy, but also it showcases the faith we have in this program and the players we "recruit and develop" to earn those draft-worthy status'. So that idea is really fun to fantasize over all winter and spring, all the way up to the actual night. On the other hand, the entire first night that we got to witness where the entire country decided to collectively pile on Will Levis and enjoy his slide was not cool and it sucked to see it play out.
I feel bad for the kid because dozens of respected NFL scouts and media all had Will Levis getting drafted very high, with essentially a guarantee to go in the First Round. I mean hell, ESPN had a 92% chance that he'd go in the TOP-TEN. The NFL themselves even invited him to the green room! His agent who has spoke to franchise after franchise during the draft process would have had the best gauge on where he'd likely go all the way through to the very night. Do you think he would have had Will in that room - a room where 6 cameras are on you every second of the evening - unless he was told something alluding to a high draft pick? Of course not. Something went really off the path Thursday evening and if I'm taking my best guess, I think things were left really close to what we were all hearing up until the Indianapolis Colts decided to go with Anthony Richardson at 4th overall. Once Bryce Young went first overall to the Carolina Panthers and then C.J. Stroud went second the Houston Texans, it was all eyes on the Colts at four to take Kentucky's quarterback. When I heard Florida's unproven QB called to that stage, my heart sunk. I couldn't believe it. One because I expected to see Levis trot on up there, but two, because if he didn't go there, I was afraid he might fall far due to teams following not necessarily needing a quarterback.
He unfortunately did fall, going outside of the First Round and as the second pick of the Second Round at No. 33 overall to the Tennessee Titans. While I hate it that he and Kentucky didn't get their national positive spotlight on Thursday night, Will still found a way to hear his name called and that was the goal when he decided to transfer from his back-up position at Penn State to Kentucky in the summer of 2021.
You can see the relief once he finally had his moment, since it all unfolded way different than he had visioned so. But hey, he reached his goal and that to me is still success, so I am happy for him and if anything, I hope it builds an even bigger chip on his shoulder to go prove those other teams wrong.
After the first two nights passed by, all that was left were rounds 4-7. Kentucky only had one pick in the first two rounds, but that didn't mean they were done. Two more Cats got drafted on Saturday.
With the 193rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Washington Commanders selected Chris Rodriguez in the 6th Round. The Georgia-native was sitting at home with family when he got the call that he was going to be selected by the franchise. The video of that phone call is on our TikTok, which you can watch here. Chris, who ranks 3rd all-time on UK's career rushing list with 3,644 yards and 3rd for total career touchdowns with 35, is now on his way to playing professional football as he deserves. I'm sure he'll make his offense happy once he starts plummeting over defenders in each rep like we got to see, so many times.
Finally, Kentucky's Carrington Valentine was picked up by the Green Bay Packers in the 7th Round as the 232nd overall pick. Valentine becomes the most recent UK/Green Bay draft pick since Randall Cobb did so in 2011. He comes the 24th player under Mark Stoops to hear their name called in the NFL Draft.
2023 NFL Draft
Round 2, 33rd pick: Will Levis, Tennessee Titans
Round 6, 193rd pick: Chris Rodriguez, Washington Commanders
Round 7, 232nd pick: Carrington Valentine, Green Bay Packers
A few more Wildcats have since been signed to teams post the draft, which we will continue to update as the news keeps coming out. So far, Tashawn Manning has signed with the Baltimore Ravens, DeAndre Square with the Los Angeles Rams, and Keidron Smith with the Miami Dolphins.