ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos waited until the last pick of the entire draft to nab the most important position on the field. And it couldn’t have worked out better in their eyes.
Nine quarterbacks were chosen before pick 253 — including big names such as second-overall pick Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes — but it was former Ole Miss signal-caller Chad Kelly who stood out to Denver.
“He was my favorite quarterback in the draft,” Vance Joseph said on Saturday’s post-draft presser. “He beat Alabama twice. That’s tough to do as a college quarterback. He’s a tough guy. He’s smart. He’s made some childish mistakes in the past, but he’s learned from those things. I’m comfortable with him.”
Kelly didn’t fall to the last pick in the draft just to receive the infamous “Mr. Irrelevant” label, however. The 23-year old quarterback has had his fair-share of concerns, both on and off the field. After signing with Clemson as a top-five high school quarterback recruit, Kelly was dismissed from the program after multiple arguments with the coaching staff and was arrested in 2014.
He found a second chance at East Mississippi Community College where he proved himself enough to earn another shot at Ole Miss where he earned back-to-back second-team All-SEC honors. On the field, Kelly has sustained multiple injuries, including a torn MCL in 2016 and a thumb injury that will keep him sidelined until August.
However, Denver saw too much upside on Kelly to pass, and they had an inside source to learn about the type of person he is: Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, Chad’s uncle.
“I called his uncle, and he said he’s a good kid, so I said, ‘Okay, that’s all I need.’ I trust Jim with that,” John Elway said with a smirk. “I did talk to Jim today, and obviously Jim was very high on him, as we were. We were thrilled that he was still there, I didn’t think he would get there at 253, but we were happy to get him.”
Much as Joseph classified Kelly’s troubled past as “childish mistakes,” Elway put his faith in Chad that he’s matured enough to handle not only the NFL game, but the lifestyle.
“There’s obviously been some history there,” Elway said. “We felt comfortable that Chad understands what he’s been through and is ready to take this step and realizes the step that he’s taken has to be a little bit different than it was when he was in college. We’re full of confidence that Chad is going to be able to come up here and understand the situation that he is in.”
At 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, Kelly’ doesn’t possess a prototypical frame, but his arm strength is about as good as they come.
“The one thing about him is he is a great competitor. That’s what we are really excited about him,” Elway said. “He makes a lot of plays and takes some chances, but he’s a great competitor. And he’s got great lineage.”
It’s clear the Broncos didn’t just add Kelly to simply be a third arm in the offseason due to the fact that he won’t be able to play until August. After the conclusion of the draft, Denver signed Northern Colorado quarterback Kyle Sloter. However, Elway made it very clear who the third quarterback will be once Kelly is healthy.
“Well [Kelly’s] got the thumb. We think he’s going to be alright; he’s an August, September guy,” Elway said. “We realize he’s going to take some time to get healthy. We are in the process of bringing another arm in until Chad’s ready to go.”
If the quarterback situation in Denver wasn’t interesting enough, the Broncos were able to add their favorite quarterback in the draft. It may not be this season that Kelly sees meaningful action, but the Broncos brass made it clear their interest in the low-risk, high-reward quarterback.