After tying for the most draft picks in the Commonwealth for the second consecutive years, the WKU Hilltoppers saw a total of eight former Hilltoppers get an opportunity to pursue their NFL dreams over the weekend following the 2017 NFL Draft.
On Friday’s second night of the draft, All-American offensive tackle Forrest Lamp became the highest-ever Hilltopper selected as he went No. 38 overall to the Los Angeles Chargers as the sixth pick in the second round. Lamp supplanted cornerback Joseph Jefferson, who went No. 74 overall to the Indianapolis Colts in 2002, as the standard bearer for draft selections.
Lamp also became the highest-ever Conference USA offensive lineman picked, passing Houston’s Sebastian Vollmer (No. 58) who went to the New England Patriots in 2009.
He was joined later in the draft by Indiana lineman Dan Feeney, and the pair are expected to be contributors immediately along the line for the newly relocated Chargers as they look to protect All-Pro quarterback Phillip Rivers and provide running lanes for Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon. Many of the nation’s top draft analysts considered Lamp’s selection in the second round one of the steals of the draft as he was widely viewed as a first-round prospect.
In Friday’s third round, former All-American receiver Taywan Taylor, the owner of every career receiving record in program history, became the third selection by the Tennessee Titans who selected the Louisville native No. 72 overall. Taylor became the second-highest draft pick in school history. He joined Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis and FIU tight end Jonnu Smith as offensive selections for the Titans who placed an emphasis on finding offensive playmakers to surround quarterback Marcus Mariota this season.
It was a calculated move by the Titans who traded up into the No. 72 slot with the New England Patriots to get Taylor. In the process, Tennessee surrendered the 83rd and 124th picks while adding No. 72 and No. 200.
Lamp and Taylor became the first C-USA duo from the same team selected in the third round or higher since Dewayne White (2nd) and Dave Ragone (3rd) of Louisville in 2003.
Following the conclusion of the draft on Saturday, six more Hilltoppers received calls from NFL teams to sign as undrafted free agents or to attend their rookie minicamps.
As undrafted free agents, offensive tackle Darrell Williams, Jr., signed with San Francisco, defensive tackle Omarius Bryant signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and quarterback Tyler Ferguson signed with the Tennessee Titans.
Linebacker Keith Brown (Seattle Seahawks), snapper Nolan Dowling (Kansas City Chiefs) and offensive center Max Halpin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) all received rookie minicamp invitations.
It marks the second consecutive season eight Hilltoppers have gotten the opportunity to continue on to the NFL, tying the record set last season.
HILLTOPPERS HEADING TO THE NFL
· Forrest Lamp, Los Angeles Chargers
· Taywan Taylor, Tennessee Titans
· Omarius Bryant, Baltimore Ravens
· Tyler Ferguson, Tennessee Titans
· Darrell Williams, Jr., San Francisco 49ers
· Keith Brown, Seattle Seahawks
· Nolan Dowling, Kansas City Chiefs
· Max Halpin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The eight join six former Hilltoppers currently listed on NFL rosters: Brandon Doughty (Miami Dolphins), Jonathan Dowling (Buffalo Bills), Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts), George Fant (Seattle Seahawks), Tyler Higbee (LA Rams), and Prince Charles Iworah (49ers).
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Associate Athletic Director, Communications