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Kansas Jayhawks Draft Recap: More Proof of a New Era

Kansas Jayhawks at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl
© Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SPORTS

The 2024 NFL Draft has officially concluded. Normally, Kansas Jayhawk fans would think little to nothing of it. Very few Jayhawk football players get drafted in the late rounds, if at all, and even fewer make an NFL team.

This year, however, was different and represented even further the dawning of a new era of Kansas Jayhawk football under coach Lance Leipold. Not one, but two Jayhawks were drafted in the third and fifth rounds, and a host of undrafted free agents for the squad have an excellent chance to make a final roster. Let's take a look at who are the newest pro football Jayhawks. You can read further about the Jayhawks that were selected here at College Football Dawgs.

No. 86 Dominick Puni, OL (San Francisco 49ers)

The 49ers would take the first Jayhawk off the board when they chose Puni in the third round of the 2024 draft. Puni would be the highest-drafted Jayhawk since cornerback and program legend Aqib Talib was selected No. 20 overall in the 2008 Draft and for good reason.

Puni was a stalwart on the Jayhawk offensive line. A versatile, physical player, Puni did not allow a single sack or pressure in 2023 and showed extreme tenacity in the run game, mauling opposing defenders with sheer power and footwork technique. He was able to move across the offensive line throughout his career, playing every position along the line and excelling at each. Puni will need to lower his pad level and focus on his hip technique but will prove to be a valuable piece in protecting quarterback Brock Purdy down the line.

Dominick Puni

It is somewhat surprising that he fell this far in the draft given his prowess and the way he graded out, however, a few were likely turned off by his slower speed and indecisiveness at what position he would end up playing. Nonetheless, the 49ers got a future starter in Puni. He will likely sit in 2024, but with the contracts along the offensive line in limbo for the 49ers and Puni's skill, expect him to slot in as a starter as early as next year.

No. 144 Austin Booker, EDGE (Chicago Bears)

The Bears would also take a chance on a Jayhawk, selecting EDGE Austin Booker in the fifth round. Booker was named Big 12 Conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year as well as named First-Team All-Big 12, notching a conference-leading 8 sacks and recording 56 total tackles.

One of the highest motors out of any EDGE in the draft, Booker plays with a bendy, agile motion that easily beats slower opposing tackles. Not only that but for Booker's size—which is just below average for NFL defensive ends—he is extremely physical, has hard-hitting hands and bull-rush technique. His size and age are the two big questions for him, but if put in a correct environment where he can develop and learn, Booker could easily slot himself in as a stud along the Bears defensive line. Under Montez Sweat, one of the league's best EDGEs, Booker couldn't ask for much more. He has a high ceiling and a hunger for quarterbacks, which is why Bears social media has already called him one of the next "Monsters of the Midway."

Austin Booker
© Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capitol-Journal/USA TODAY SPORTS

Jayhawks Undrafted Free Agents

While Puni and Booker were the ones drafted, there was still plenty of talent to go around with the Jayhawks' 2024 draft class. Many players who likely will be on an NFL roster when all is said and done did not hear their names called, however, got the chance to compete when they signed an undrafted free agent deal or got invited to a rookie mini camp. The list is below:

Undrafted Free Agent Signings

  • Craig Young, LB, Indianapolis Colts

  • Kenny Logan Jr., S, Los Angeles Rams

  • Mike Novitsky, IOL, Seattle Seahawks

  • Jason Bean, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Minicamp Invites

  • Kalon Gervin, LB, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers

  • Mason Fairchild, TE, Buffalo Bills

  • Kwinton Lassiter, CB, Indianapolis Colts

  • Rich Miller, LB, Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens

  • Dylan McDuffie, RB, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers

  • Devin Phillips, DT, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills

These players will get their shot to make a roster and frankly, couldn't be more deserving. Logan was a leader on the Jayhawk defense for years and was one of the most productive safeties in the Big 12, Novitsky worked his way from Buffalo to Kansas and showed how he could compete well in the Power 5, Fairchild went from having one FBS offer out of Andale High School (Kansas) to being one of the best tight ends in the conference, and so many other stories get to continue because these teams gave these players a chance. You might notice quite a few are headed to Indianapolis. You can thank Colts general manager Chris Ballard, whose son, Cole, is a backup quarterback for Kansas, for giving them a shot to make his squad. Overall, this is the biggest Jayhawk draft/UDFA class in years, and is a sign of bigger and better things to come for the program.

Part of measuring a college program's success is measuring the quantity and quality of professional players that come out of it. These players will have a chance to add to successful Jayhawks in the pros like Dorance Armstrong, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and others and will carve out their own legacy, all while representing a program that is on the up and coming. The 2025 class of Jayhawks looks even greater and the future is bright for Kansas.


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