With the final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly, the big name gunslinger whose uncle is Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Short of Deshaun Watson, there wasn’t another player in college football the last couple seasons that’s given the University of Alabama’s vaunted defense more trouble than Kelly. He’s a wild player with some a high-level skill set but also some off-field and injury concerns. The former five-star recruit, who played for three different college teams, comes from spread attack which means he’ll have a learning curve in the pros.
He’s a true gunslinger—the AFC West is all about big arms now—with all the good and bad that comes with that label.
Here’s what we found on his tape.
- Kelly shows flashes of a big and powerful arm. He possesses easy arm strength even when throwing off balance can zip the ball downfield. He shows nice touch on deep throws as well.
- He’s also a deceptive athlete who made some nice plays on the run though that’s not his game.
- True gunslinger, hasn’t seen a window he’s afraid to throw into and can really dart throws across the field.
- Has a big powerful frame that allows him to take on contact thanks to his 224-pound frame. In college, he’d even deliver a few hits on the run.
- A really competitive kid who plays with a swagger. Doesn’t back down from the challenge, has some Philip Rivers to him.
- Has a nice compact, quick release.
- Kelly can throw with great zip on his ball. Flashes accuracy in tight windows that’s very intriguing
- Has a good pocket presence. He stands tough in the pocket and has mobile feet that he uses well to scan the field while in the pocket. Footwork could be promising though he’ll need lots of work when used under center.
- Kelly mostly operates from within the pocket and doesn’t dance around or force plays outside the pocket or try to play backyard football like some spread offense QBs are known to do.
- Kelly’s an erratic thrower. Particularly his accuracy and ball placement come and go. Too often he throws balls behind his receivers as a result of off balance footwork.
- He comes from a spread offense entirely based out of the shotgun and will have a long transition to becoming a pro-style quarterback.
- His off-field issues are concerning. Not just getting in trouble off the field but there are character concerns as well. Was kicked off of Clemson for multiple altercations with coaches.
- Has a few serious injuries in his past. Has gone through two different ACL surgeries and is recovering from one now which will limit his ability to contribute as a rookie.
- Kelly’s footwork is often off-balance, particularly when he feels pressure coming. He trusts his arm too much and will attempt wild throws from off-balance platforms that get him in trouble.
- He has a tendency to stare down throws. He’ll need to improve going through his reads and using his eyes to manipulate coverages.
- He can be prone to interceptions as he’ll attempt throws that are avoidable and will get in trouble with his spotty ball placement. He makes head scratching-bone headed decisions.
- His delivery point is a bit low, and he allows too many tipped balls for a 6-foot-2 QB as a result.
- He’ll sometimes try to do too much will hold onto the ball too long in the pocket, and he gives up too many sacks because of this.
How he fits
Kelly’s tape is not much different from other big armed spread offense quarterbacks in this that much higher than the very last pick in the draft such as Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb. The reason he isn’t as highly regarded as those two are the injuries and off-field concerns. Which become more concerning given that he’s a quarterback, the most high-pressure position on the field.
Considering the premium placed on quarterbacks, he’s a decent gamble to take with a low-cost resource like a seventh round pick. Similar to the selection of Brendan Langley, who was a raw piece of clay for the defensive coaches, Kelly is a gift for the Broncos newest offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who are quarterback whisperers. Denver also has a strong locker room to keep Kelly’s off-field problems under wraps.
The biggest concern with his selection might be having a roster spot dedicated to a third quarterback as that will make for some strong competition on offense at other positions like wide receiver, tight end, and on the offensive line where the depth is adding up. Though given his injury he could be placed on IR sooner rather than later. If he can clean up things on and off the field, this could prove to be a nice pick in a few years with some patience.