5 biggest NFL draft busts in Kentucky football history

Kentucky won't be producing another first-round pick in 2024, but that also means no Wildcat taken this year will be seen as a big NFL draft bust, which is a bit of a silver-lining.
December 8 2002;Jacksonville,FL,USA; Quarterback Tim Couch of the Cleveland Browns in action against
December 8 2002;Jacksonville,FL,USA; Quarterback Tim Couch of the Cleveland Browns in action against / Paul Chapman
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Kentucky has six prospects who could be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, but there’s a chance only three hear their name called over the three-day marathon in Detroit. However, none of those three, Andru Phillips, Ray Davis, or Devin Leary are likely to be selected in the first round and therefore will almost certainly avoid “bust” status. 

The last first-rounder to come out of Mark Stoops’s program in Lexington was Jamin Davis in 2021, and the jury is still out on his career, but of the other nine other first-round picks to come out of Kentucky, five have turned into busts.

Not all five have been awful players in the league, but the return on investment for the draft slot where they were taken was not nearly big enough. That’s even the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers who got a double-digit sack season out of their first-round pick in 2015. 

No. 22 overall. Bud Dupree. Bud Dupree, OLB. Bud Dupree, OLB. 55. . 2015. 5. player.

It’s a bit harsh to call Bud Dupree a draft bust. Pittsburgh ended up keeping him on the franchise tag after his rookie contract expired and an injury in the 2020 season derailed what was looking to be a back-to-back double-digit sack season. However, the reason for Dupree’s success in 2019 and 2020 was TJ Watt and if Dupree wasn’t a bust, Watt would have never become a Steeler. 

After drafting Dupree in the first round in 2015, Pittsburgh was forced to draft another first-round edge rusher in 2017 after Dupree totaled 9.5 sacks across his first two seasons. Dupree eventually took off across from Watt, but who wouldn’t have? Watt still constantly commands double-teams and former third-round pick, Alex Highsmith has been a better complement to Watt than Dupree ever was. 

After leaving Pittsburgh, Dupree has bounced from Tennessee to Atlanta and has 13.5 sacks across the last three years.