John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
(percentile rank among all RBs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: DNP
Vertical: 35 inches (57th)
Broad Jump: 120 inches (64th)
Bench Press: 15 reps (16th)
3-cone drill: 7.13 seconds (35th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.51 seconds (6th)
Kelly’s promising fantasy profile began in 2016.
That’s when he recorded just 5 fewer carries than Alvin Kamara … and outproduced him with 6.4 YPC vs. 5.8.
Kamara dominated the receiving work that year, but it was Kelly’s time to shine in 2017. His 37 catches actually tied for the team lead. Tennessee certainly struggled, going 0-8 in SEC play and ranking 119th nationwide in scoring. The program even fired HC Butch Jones after their 10th game.
Mix in a shaky O-line — Tennessee used 8 different starting combos — and it’s easier to stomach Kelly’s 4.1 YPC.
Look beyond the poor efficiency and you'll see how Kelly cemented his status as an aggressive back. Here’s how OT Trey Smith described him, via SEC Country.
“He’s a full-contact back,” Smith said. “That’s what I really love about him. JK gets me hyped in the game just in the way he plays, with the violence he plays with. It really motivates me. If a guy is going to run that hard, then I can block for this guy for a couple of seconds.”
At the NFL Combine, Kelly remarked that he “just likes to embarrass people.” That’ll become clear when we look at the cutups.
Before that, it’s worth noting some self-inflicted harm that arose last October. During a traffic stop, police discovered 4.6 grams of marijuana. Kelly faced a 1-game suspension (10/28) before returning to face Southern Mississippi.
Upon returning, he averaged a measly 2.55 YPC. In fact, Kelly racked up 57.9% of his rushing yards over the first 4 games alone. He scored 6 of his 9 total TDs over that stretch, too.
Perhaps Kelly fell victim to the team’s struggles. But it’s clear from his tape that there’s fantasy football potential…
Games watched: Missouri, Florida, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Kentucky (2016), South Carolina (2016)
I could just link to the 2017 Florida game as evidence of Kelly’s value and call it a day.
In fact … here it is — 8 minutes of his 237-yard performance. He starts slowly but quickly builds steam in an excellent display of burst, tenacity and versatility.
You’ll see some highlights from that one below — but let’s start with his physical style of play. Kelly is no doubt a "finisher."
Kelly's workout numbers don't stand out, but the tape shows a guy with plenty of play speed and wiggle ...
Kelly's fantasy prospects improve because of a clear receiving skill set. Per Pro Football Focus, he forced 14 missed tackles on 37 receptions in 2017.
It's easy to picture Kelly as a mismatch for LBs.
Kelly did fumble at the end of the final clip. His play-through-the-whistle mentality might require some adjustment in the pros, but it's important to note that fumbles weren't a significant issue in college. Kelly had an above average fumble rate -- relative to this class -- at 1 every 123.3 touches.
Barkley. Guice. Chubb. Michel. Penny.
This draft looks rich in RB talent. And that might hurt Kelly -- a projected mid-round pick -- a little bit.
The good news? Recent Dynasty League Football ADP shows you can acquire Kelly for an early-to-mid Round 2 pick. That's a price we're comfy with.
After all, we have few doubts about Kelly's on-field ability. An off-field arrest and a relatively light body of work (779 career snaps, 327 career carries) provides the bulk of our hesitation. The former Vol isn't close to the biggest back in this draft, either. As our Jared Smola observed, however, Kelly's built like Ray Rice. (Hop ahead to 39:25 of the podcast for a quick discussion on Kelly.)
Landing spot will be key -- no question -- but the tape and athleticism here shows a guy with potential to eventually earn lead back status.