Dominick Puni drafted to 49ers; highest-picked Kansas football player since Aqib Talib

Puni was the 86th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft
NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The 2010s era was abysmal for Kansas football fans. Across an entire decade, the Jayhawks only picked up 21 victories, six of them coming in conference play. It should come as no surprise that the program did not produce much NFL talent during this time. Dating back to 2010, only eight KU players heard their names called at the NFL Draft podium.

However, Kansas has enjoyed much more success under HC Lance Leipold since he arrived in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are coming off a 9-4 season with a Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory in his third year. Leipold has brought in some excellent players during his short tenure, and he had his first KU recruit selected in the 2024 NFL Draft yesterday.

Former Jayhawk Dominick Puni drafted by the San Francisco 49ers

Puni, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound OG, was taken 86th overall by the 49ers in today's draft. He fills a massive need for the Super Bowl runner-ups and could start immediately. Most mock drafts projected him to go in the middle rounds and as early as the late second round, so this landing spot is expected.

The Missouri native was tremendous during his time in Lawrence, earning All-Big 12 First Team and Second Team All-American (per Action Network) honors in his super senior season. He transferred from the University of Central Missouri after spending four years there and transformed into an excellent player under Leipold.

He started 12 games at LT in 2023 and 13 at LG in 2022. While Puni played on both the inside and outside in college, he projects as a guard in the pros due to his average wingspan and less-than-ideal athleticism. He graded well at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine and Reese’s Senior Bowl, as he excels in pass protection and will be pivotal in run plays for superstar RB Christian McCaffrey.

San Francisco must view Puni very highly, as they traded up from No. 94 overall to grab him. They sent Nos. 94 and 134 to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 86th pick. Here is what NFL Draft expert Matt Miller said about the pick.

"The No. 76 overall player on my board, Puni is a plug-and-play starter at guard who had experience at tackle in college. The 49ers' right side of the offensive line has been an issue with no notable long-term answers at any position from center to right tackle. Puni should get every chance to be the team's Week 1 starting right guard but could even get looks at right tackle if the team likes his transition there."

Matt Miller, ESPN

With the pick, Puni becomes the highest-drafted player from Kansas since CB Aqib Talib was taken 20th overall in 2008. He was the first offensive lineman taken from Lawrence since Hakeem Adeniji and the highest-picked since Mike Wellman 45 years ago.