lexington: kentucky football’s 2022 nfl draft started with a bang and ended with a whimper.
the wildcats draft class surprised with three picks in the top 65 picks, but projected second round darian kinnard dropped to the fifth round and a trio of invited nfl combine likely to be day 3 picks weren’t selected.
Reading: Kentucky football draft picks 2022
Wide receiver Wan’dale Robinson, defensive end Josh Paschal, center Luke Fortner and Kinnard gave Kentucky at least four draft picks for the third time in the last four years. With Fortner and Kinnard selected, Kentucky produced multiple offensive line draft picks in the same year for the first time since 1993. The much-hyped “Great Blue Wall” has now produced an offensive line draft pick in four straight drafts after Kentucky only had one offensive lineman drafted between 1994 and 2018.
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Shortly after the draft ended, news began to surface of free agent deals for several undrafted Kentucky players. safety Yusuf Corker (Giants), nose guard Marquan McCall (Panthers) and tight end Justin Rigg (Bengals) have already signed. offensive tackle dare rosenthal, wide receiver josh ali and defensive back quandre mosely could also land deals.
Here’s a closer look at what the teams that drafted all four wildcats this weekend have had to say about their fit at the next level:
wan’dale robinson (new york giants, second round)
The Giants traded down twice in the second round before taking Robinson at No. 43, exceeding his most optimistic pre-draft projections by a full round. There was immediate speculation in New York that the selection meant the Giants were looking to shop fellow undersized receiver Kadarius Toney, but general manager Joe Schoen quickly dismissed that suggestion. “For what we’re going to do offensively, he’ll be a very good fit for us,” Schoen said of Robinson.
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josh pascual (detroit lions, second round)
It should come as no surprise to Kentucky fans that Lions personnel were quick to point out Paschal’s leadership potential when they stunned by drafting the three-year-old British captain in the second round. Pre-draft drills had Paschal between Round 3 and Round 6. “You’re in awe when you turn on the tape, but then you find out about the human being and you’re even more impressed,” Brad, Lions general manager. holmes said.
luke fortner (jacksonville jaguars, third round)
fortner was the third selected center in the draft, capping his remarkable rise over the course of his extra season in kentucky. when he chose to return to school for his covid-19 year last winter, no one projected him as a draft pick. a year later, the Jaguars grabbed him with the first pick of the third round. “Luke has a lot of things that I like … he’s connected in the right way,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. our offense in the running game, whether he’s hitting the three technique or going up to the second level, he can just redirect.”
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darian kinnard (kansas city chiefs, round 5)
When Kinnard decided to return to Kentucky for his senior year, the hope was that a season playing left tackle would cement him as a first-round pick. instead, he stayed at right tackle and dropped from pre-draft second-round projections to the fifth round. the good news is that the bosses changed to finally stop him from slipping. The bosses will no doubt be looking to duplicate the success they found with Trey Smith a year ago after the Tennessee offensive lineman unexpectedly dropped in the sixth round and then started every game as a rookie.
email jon hale at [email protected]; follow him on twitter at @jonhale_cj.