Walker has high NFL ceiling

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

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Kentucky associate coach Vince Marrow often talks with UK defensive line coach Anwar Stewart as well as defensive coordinator Brad White about the NFL draft possibilities for Deone Walker.

The 6-6, 348-pound Walker had 55 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 quarterback sacks during his sophomore season in 2023.

“He can go anywhere from one to 12 in the draft,” Marrow said. “He’s a very unique talent. He is a big guy who can move. He won’t have no off the field stuff. He’s a very nice guy off the field.

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“I told (NFL) scouts he could be the first pick (in the 2025 NFL draft). It is up to Deone. He had (shoulder) surgery in the offseason. I know Stew is really going to drive him hard. That’s why I see him going so high (in the draft). He’s a definite high first-round pick.”

Early 2025 mock drafts certainly back up what Marrow and the UK coaches believe.

ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid put Walker 19th in his recent mock draft.

“Interior defenders who are 6-6 and 348 pounds almost never move as well as Walker, who is nimble-footed for his size. He collected 7.5 sacks last season, and 30 of his 39 pressures came while aligned as a defensive tackle. Walker has quick hands and a wide array of moves as a pass-rusher, but his pad level has to improve,” Reid wrote.

Randall Brown of Fantasy Pros has Walker 10th in his mock draft because of his lateral movement and size.

“His length presents mismatches on the interior as he can split double teams and win in one-on-one matchups. Last season, he had 51 pressures, leading all interior defensive linemen. He could do that and a whole lot more this season,” Brown wrote.

CBS Sports analyst Josh Edwards, who covers Kentucky football, is even higher on Walker and put him fourth in his 2025 mock draft.

“If he can play with consistency and show his effectiveness as a pass rusher, then it will be hard to keep him from being one of the top 10 prospects taken,” Edwards said. “I just want to see consistent use of pass rush moves.

“In the NFL, everyone is big so you can not just win with power and strength. An interior defender that could be taken as highly as Deone is projected must be able to apply a pass rush consistently.

“When he locks in mentally, he can take over the game but there are other moments when he blends in. If he can continue to present himself as a supreme talent in the SEC, then he will have an opportunity to be taken early.”