In-state trio taken in third round

The second round of the 2024 NFL Draft came and went Friday night without much buzz among in-state prospects, but once the third round rolled around, three of them were gone in a flash.

Western Kentucky wide receiver Malachi Corley was taken 65th overall — the first pick of the third round — by the New York Jets. Not long after, Kentucky cornerback Andru Phillips was selected 70th by the New York Giants. Two spots later, the Carolina Panthers drafted Wildcats linebacker Trevin Wallace.

Watching and waiting must have felt like ages for all three draftees, who had all been linked to the second round in various mock drafts in the weeks leading up to Friday. After all, nobody wants a repeat of Will Levis’s experience in 2023, when he fell to the second round after earning an invite to the NFL Draft’s first-day green room.

By the end of the night, however, all could breathe a sigh of relief.

Apparently, New York’s front office had its sights set on Corley for weeks. The Jets traded the 72nd and 157th picks to the Carolina Panthers to move up seven spots and nab the former Campbellsville High School star.

Now, Corley joins the stable of New York stars that also includes veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning from injury, third-year running back Breece Hall and wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Mike Williams.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Corley said after being drafted. “Almost surreal, knowing my journey and where I came from, and then knowing that I get to play with somebody great who I’ve been watching since I was younger like Aaron Rodgers.”

Playing with Rodgers, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles, should help make the transition easier for Corley. Less attention from defenders means he’ll have the chance to make more plays, especially if the Jets view him in the same short-passing role that Randall Cobb filled for so many years in Green Bay. He also sees himself in a similar light as San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel.

“Having a veteran guy who knows what he’s doing (Rodgers) who is decisive and very definitive out on the field and leaves no gray areas — playing with somebody like that and having somebody like that respect my game, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Corley added.

Phillips will join a depleted Giants secondary that couldn’t shore up its deficiencies in free agency, but his role will remain undefined until camp. With the ability to play against inside and outside pass-catchers, Phillips rocketed up draft boards in the last couple of months after showing off his athleticism in workouts.

“With the people in the facility and the history behind it, it genuinely felt like home,” Phillips said of his pre-draft visit to New York. “I got to go through there and meet everybody, relationships I’ve built — they’re all such good people. It’s such a great organization to come play for.”

“I prayed I would go today, and God works in mysterious ways. I’m here with a great organization, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

The Panthers, using the 72nd pick that they got from trading back with the Jets earlier, used it to take Wallace — who’s expected to start out in a reserve role for a Carolina unit that needs depth.

It didn’t take long for Wallace to win over his new fanbase, either.

“I’m determined to get to the ballcarrier,” he said after being drafted. “Even if the play goes on for 12 seconds, I’m determined to get him.”

Just like the three teams Friday were determined to land the WKU and UK prospects.