What NFL scouts think of Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly
Chad Kelly has put up some monster numbers at Ole Miss this year. The junior quarterback has thrown for 3,720 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Rebels to a 9-3 record and a bid to the Sugar Bowl.
Those are some gaudy numbers for someone who’s playing his first full year of major-college football.
And it begs the question: Is Kelly ready for the NFL?
He’s as high as No. 3 on some QB ratings boards for juniors, behind only Paxton Lynch of Memphis and Jared Goff of California. Along with that duo, Michigan State senior Connor Cook is the only other QB that could draw first-round interest.
With Kelly, here are the things that pro scouts will dissect:
That shouldn’t be an issue. He’s proven this year that he can make all the throws.
“He can shoot it,” one NFL scout told Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm in September after Kelly led Ole Miss to a 43-37 win over Alabama. “I liked that he seemed to have a knack for the big moment, and he responded a few times with big throws right when [Alabama] was making some runs. That’s good. That shows me something.
“I haven’t done extensive work on him, and we’ll circle back around if we need to, but that’s one [game] you kind of dog-ear the page on, if you know what I mean.”
The Sugar Bowl will be only his 13th college start. Some are concerned that’s not enough.
“I think his situation reminds me a little bit of Ryan Tannehill when he was coming out of Texas A&M (in 2011),” an AFC scout said last week. “He had done a lot of good things, but the complete body of work was kind of small because he was a wide receiver before he became a quarterback.
“He really only had one full year to evaluate, and a hand full of games from the previous year. He was athletic and had a good arm, but I think everyone thought it was going to take him some time to figure out exotic defenses and that’s turned out to be true. A lot of people really liked him – (he was taken eighth overall by the Miami Dolphins) – but he wasn’t a perfect quarterback by any means.
“The same thing might hold true for Kelly. He has talent, no question, but he still has a lot to learn. And I’m not even sure I would put him in Tannehill’s class right now, to be honest. We haven’t seen enough of Kelly to talk about him like that.”
Even though Kelly led the SEC in passing yards and touchdown passes, there is a black mark on his stat sheet – those 12 interceptions. The AFC scout says that often tells a lot.
“A good barometer for me is watching the interceptions a guy throws. What happened? How did it happen? Should it have happened? Kelly threw 12 interceptions this year and that’s too many. Eleven of those were in a six-game window. He was better at the end – (no picks in his last three starts vs. Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State with seven combined TDs) – but they’re still a concern. Sure, he’s playing against some good defenses, but he made a lot of poor throws. Well, more so poor decisions, really.
“I don’t think there’s any question he has a chance to be a good NFL quarterback, but he’s going to need some time. He still has a lot to learn. Heck, some of his highlight-reel touchdowns this year really should have been interceptions, too.”
Kelly has had a few. Ole Miss is his third school in three years. He was dismissed from Clemson in April 2014 for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and landed at East Mississippi Community College, where he won a junior college national title against inferior competition. Before Kelly got to Ole Miss, he was arrested in Buffalo – his hometown – on a disorderly conduct charge last December, and struck a plea agreement where he was sentenced to do 50 hours of community service.
There is school of thought that the Clemson boot and the Buffalo arrest might still be a bit too fresh in the minds of scouts and NFL executives. That’s why some think coming back to Ole Miss and keeping his nose clean for a year might be beneficial for Kelly.
Lastly, it’s going to be Kelly’s choice
Kelly told the media last week that he hasn’t made any decisions yet. But he did say he feels much more confident in his abilities now than he did a few months ago.
“I have matured. I think just understanding that everything does not need a reaction and there is a bigger picture than the current moment has helped me a lot,” he told Scout.com. “I feel I have developed as a player too. I have learned the offense and I think that is where I can be even better next year. ”
Family issues might weigh into his decision as well.
“The main reason why I would even potentially go to the NFL Draft is for my family,” Kelly told the Clarion-Ledger. “My parents work long, long shifts during the week and even on the weekend. My dad can’t even watch some of my games if he doesn’t come down here because he has to work.
“That’s depressing. That’s what you work towards. I live by family over everything. That would be the only reason why. But other than that, I’m focusing on getting a degree.”
Kelly is scheduled to graduate in May. He’ll likely make a decision soon after their Jan. 1 bowl game in New Orleans. The NFL’s deadline is Jan. 18.