The 2015 NFL Draft is still eight months away, but Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has already begun fielding questions about his players’ draft prospects.

Stoops was asked his opinion on senior defensive end Bud Dupree’s future in professional football, and to his credit, Stoops was very honest and forthright with his answer.

“I’d be very shocked if Bud was not a first round draft pick,” Stoops said at his first weekly press conference of the season Monday.

Dupree, a senior, had 61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2013 to earn second team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press. He was named second team All-SEC again this preseason, this time by the league’s coaches.

Stoops compared Dupree to the defensive ends and outside linebackers he coached while serving as defensive coordinator at Florida State, and noted his versatility as one area where Dupree would translate well to the NFL.

“I’ve been around a lot of great ones, a lot of great D-ends and outside backers recently at Florida State, and he’s an exceptional player,” Stoops said. “… Bud is special because he has that ability to play standing up or put his hands in the dirt. He’s a pass rusher, he’s got instincts, with everybody going to a lot of the 3-4 things and outside backers and how versatile he is, he’s a very good football player.”

Stoops was referring to Dupree’s ability to play as a down-lineman or as a standing outside linebacker, where he was slotted on Stoops’ depth chart Monday. Many NFL teams have begun using converted defensive ends as standing outside linebackers to aid their pass rush out of a base 3-4 defense, but those same ends-turned-linebackers typically struggle when asked to play coverage or make one-on-one tackles in open space.

Dupree, however, has experience playing outside linebacker in the SEC and could handle the responsibilities of playing either linebacker or defensive end at the next level, which Stoops thinks NFL general managers will find appealing.

Kentucky’s head coach was also asked about fellow senior defensive end Za’Darius Smith’s pro prospects, and once again Stoops was optimistic for his player.

“(Smith) could have gone (to the draft) a year ago, a little later than (the first round), a little lower, but has a chance to play himself up to a high draft pick,” Stoops said.

Smith recorded similar numbers to Dupree in 2013, registering 59 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in his first season in the SEC after transferring to Kentucky from East Mississippi Community College.

Stoops has high expectations for both players entering the 2014 season, but it is their approach off the field, especially Dupree, that has Stoops feeling so good about his star seniors.

“I love everything about (Dupree) and the way he goes about his business,” Stoops said. “He’s not worried about anything except getting better today.”