This past weekend was good to members of the defending back-to-back Conference USA champions hoping to make the NFL. Eight total former Hilltoppers will have an opportunity to make an NFL roster for the upcoming season.
Some have a better chance than others based on their situations, but we could very well see the amount of Western Kentucky players in the pros double by the time the season rolls around.
Offensive Lineman Forrest Lamp - Los Angeles Chargers - 2nd Round, 38th Overall
Lamp became the highest-ever Hilltopper selected and highest-ever Conference USA offensive lineman selected despite falling to the second round to the surprise of just about every person who made a mock draft. Lamp will more than likely move down to guard due to concerns about his arm length. The Chargers are really still figuring out their o-line with the addition of Russell Okung from Denver last month and injury concerns with #1 right guard Donavan Clark. Lamp can really play guard and tackle well and he has the potential to learn center, so he can be a great utility guy for a line that needs improvement. Whether or not he’s the week one starter, I’d expect Lamp to get some solid time blocking for Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers this season.
Wide Receiver Taywan Taylor - Tennessee Titans - 3rd Round, 72nd Overall
Taylor compiled an impressive resume in college that included a Second Team All-American nod in 2015 and two First Team All-Conference USA selections. He was also twice a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Taylor leaves WKU as the program record holder in career receiving yards, touchdown receptions, and 100-yard receiving games. His 2015 season also set the program single season records for receiving yards, touchdown catches, receptions, and consecutive 100-yard receiving games. Taylor joins two more former G5 passing targets in this draft class in Corey Davis (Western Michigan) and Jonnu Smith (FIU) on a passing offense that was 25th in the NFL last year.
Defensive Tackle Omarius Bryant - Baltimore Ravens - UDFA
Bryant played two seasons at WKU after transferring in from Southwest Mississippi Community College. In his community college years, he was an All-MACJC player who led his team in tackles his sophomore year with 86. As a Top, he had 67 total tackles, 13 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks. Baltimore has a great reputation for developing interior defensive lineman (Haloti Ngata and Brandon Williams, to name a few) so this is a good spot for Bryant if he can make the roster.
Quarterback Tyler Ferguson - Tennessee Titans - UDFA
Ferguson backed up Mike White in 2016 after transferring in from Louisville and Penn State before that. Ferguson threw 19 completions and three touchdowns last season seeing time in nine games after the win or loss was already more or less set in stone. Ferguson has his work cut out for him if he even wants to be third on the depth chart behind Marcus Mariota and Matt Cassel.
Offensive Lineman Darrell Williams, Jr. - San Francisco 49ers - UDFA
Williams started 42 games in his four years at WKU. The majority of those starts came at right tackle, with a handful at right guard. The 49ers need just about everything right now, so there’s definitely room for him in San Francisco. He joins another former Top in Prince Charles Iworah if he can make the roster.
Linebacker Keith Brown - Seattle Seahawks - Minicamp Invite
Brown spent in his first three years at Louisville where he had 113 tackles, six for a loss, in 37 games for the Cardinals. In his one year at WKU, Brown had 131 total tackles (60 solo) with six sacks and two interceptions. That 131 was the most by a WKU player in a season since they made the jump to FBS. Seattle always keeps a linebacker heavy roster, but they’ve made something of a name for themselves in the past few years giving shots to late round picks and UDFAs so never say never. Former Topper George Fant is currently on the Seahawks offensive line.
Long Snapper Nolan Dowling - Kansas City Chiefs - Minicamp Invite
#WKU's all-time starts leader LS @ndow887 is heading to Rookie Mini Camp with the Chiefs! #ProTops pic.twitter.com/xxfi0j4sXU— WKU Football (@WKUFootball) April 29, 2017
Dowling is the all time starts leader at WKU with 67. Dowling was named all C-USA Honorable mention in 2014 and 2015 after snapping the ball 290 times with just one blocked kick. The Chiefs just recently re-signed their current long snapper James Winchester, so this is an uphill battle for Dowling.
Offensive Lineman Max Halpin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Minicamp Invite
After a redshirt year in 2012, Halpin took over the starting job at center three games into the 2013 season. The former walk-on missed most of 2014 with a back injury, but returned to start every game his junior and senior season. At the WKU pro day in March, he posted 35 reps on the 225 lb bench press, which would have been more than any offensive lineman at the NFL Combine this year. Tampa currently has four other centers on their roster. Even if he doesn’t make the Bucs, Halpin’s got what it takes to land a roster somewhere.