These former Kentucky high school and college stars could join Will Levis in the NFL Draft

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Will Levis is not the only player with local ties who is expected to be picked in the 2023 NFL Draft, which starts April 27. While other former Kentucky high school and college stars might have to wait longer to hear their names called than UK’s quarterback, several are considered intriguing prospects in their own right.

Here is a rundown of the local players who were among the 319 prospects invited to the NFL combine. Players outside that group can be selected in the 259-pick draft, but these are the most likely prospects to be picked.

QUARTERBACKS

Malik Cunningham (Louisville): After throwing for more than 9,000 yards in five years at Louisville, Cunningham will hope to hear his name called on the third day of the draft. ESPN’s Matt Miller ranks him No. 274 overall and No. 13 at quarterback. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler grades him as a likely free agent signing. Cunningham ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash of the quarterbacks who ran at the combine.

Will Levis (Kentucky): Universally projected as a first-round pick, Levis could go as high as the top five. Most pundits have him ranked behind Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, but there is more debate about whether Levis or Florida’s Anthony Richardson should be the third quarterback drafted.

RUNNING BACKS

Tiyon Evans (Louisville): Miller (28) and Brugler (29) both rank Evans outside the top 25 running backs in the class. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at the combine.

Chris Rodriguez (Kentucky): Ranked third on UK’s career rushing yards list, Rodriguez was fifth among running backs at the combine with 19 reps on the bench press. With an unofficial 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash at UK’s pro day, Rodriguez silenced some doubts about his speed. Brugler grades Rodriguez as a fifth-round pick.

Covington Catholic’s Michael Mayer ran against Frederick Douglass in the Class 5A state championship game at Kroger Field on Dec. 7, 2019.
Covington Catholic’s Michael Mayer ran against Frederick Douglass in the Class 5A state championship game at Kroger Field on Dec. 7, 2019.

TIGHT ENDS

Michael Mayer (Covington Catholic, Notre Dame): Likely the second local player to be drafted in 2023, Mayer is projected to be a first-round pick. Two of ESPN’s four NFL Draft analysts rank Mayer as the top tight end in the class. The other two rank him second at the position.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Tashawn Manning (Kentucky): Manning’s one season as Kentucky’s starting right guard was enough to earn him a combine invitation despite the struggles of the Wildcats’ offensive line. Miller ranks Manning as the 15th-best guard in the class. Brugler ranks him at No. 21 at the position and projects him as a likely undrafted free agent.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

YaYa Diaby (Louisville): Ranked by ESPN and The Athletic as Louisville’s best draft prospect, Diaby could be a day two selection. He ranked sixth among edge rushers at the combine with a 4.51-second 40-yard dash. Brugler rates him as a third-round selection.

LINEBACKERS

Yasir Abdullah (Louisville): Abdullah ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.47 seconds) of any linebacker at the combine. He recorded the best broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches) at the position. Brugler rates him as a fourth-round pick. Miller ranks him as the No. 9 outside linebacker in the class.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Kei’Trel Clark (Louisville): Brugler rates Clark as a fifth-round pick. Miller ranks him as the No. 16 cornerback in the class. He ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine.

Cory Trice (Christian County, Purdue): The Hopkinsville native is rated as a third-round prospect by The Athletic. He showed off impressive strength at the combine, ranking second among cornerbacks with 17 bench press reps. Miller and Brugler both rank him as the No. 14 cornerback.

Carrington Valentine (Kentucky): Valentine opted out of Kentucky’s bowl game to declare for the draft a year early, but he is projected as a day three selection. Brugler ranks him 28th at cornerback, and Miller ranks him 29th at the position.

How Kentucky QB Will Levis worked his way from run-first backup to top NFL Draft prospect

Before the NFL Draft, here are the top five Will Levis moments for Kentucky football

2023 NFL Draft projections anticipate a big night for Kentucky’s Will Levis

Slideshow: Kentucky quarterback Will Levis’ path to the NFL Draft

View a list of every Kentucky Wildcat selected in NFL Draft history