Call it nepotism. Call it a good 'ol boy deal. Call it one Hall of Famer doing another a solid.
However you want to classify it, the Denver Broncos used their final pick in the seventh round of the Draft on Ole Miss quarterback — and nephew to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly — Chad Kelly. Although we knew it wouldn't be early, we had a feeling going in there was a good chance the Broncos would take a flyer on a quarterback at some point on Draft Day.
With all the holes Denver had on the roster, it was a good thing they waited until the last pick to take a signal-caller. The team filled some major needs. But honestly, if you're going to take a late-round quarterback, there isn't one with a better arm talent and resume on the field than Chad Kelly.
GM John Elway talked about the decision to take the troubled and immature nephew of a Hall of Fame quarterback.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1774805-denver-broncos-2017-draft... "I called his uncle, and he said he's a good kid," Elway said. "I said, 'OK. That's all I need.' I trust Jim with that. I think that obviously there's been some history there, but 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 taking. It's got to be a little bit different than it was when he was in college. We're fully confident that Chad is going to be able to come up here and understand the situation that he's in. The one thing about him is he's a great competitor. I think that's why we're really excited about him."
In 2015 as a junior, Kelly led Ole Miss to victories over Alabama, Auburn and LSU. It was the first time in school history the Rebels beat all three in the same year. Head Coach Vance Joseph acknowledged Kelly's collegiate accomplishments and why he was on board with the pick.
"He was my favorite quarterback in the draft," Joseph said. "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, so I'm comfortable with him."
Kelly's off-the-field behavior and character are replete with red flags. It's the prevailing reason he wasn't drafted much, much earlier. He's also coming off a torn ACL and lateral meniscus suffered last November. It's the second time he's torn his ACL. Combine those two issues — character and medical — and it's no surprise Kelly barely sneaked into the Draft.
In a conference call after the Draft, Kelly talked about embracing the Mr. Irrelevant status he now owns.
“I had a feeling that I was going to get picked," Kelly said. "I kept my faith in God. I knew He was going to make it work and what better pick is there than being Mr. Irrelevant? I’m excited to be a part of the Denver Broncos.”
Kelly can be a knucklehead off the field. On the field, however, the kid has many pro-caliber traits. He throws with great anticipation, has a strong arm and is mobile. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, do you want him to be an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier? Sure. But his athleticism makes up for it.
The biggest takeaway I get when watching tape on Kelly is his fiery, competitive spirit. He does not like to lose. That mindset endeared him to the Broncos front office.
"He makes a lot of plays and takes some chances, but he's a great competitor and he's got great lineage," Elway said. "I did talk to Jim today, and obviously Jim was very high on him, as we were. We're thrilled that he was still there. I didn't think he'd get there through 253, but we were happy he did."
With the Kelly pick, the Broncos ended up selecting two players coming off a torn ACL. The Broncos also nabbed Michigan tight end Jake Butt in the fifth round. Kelly is not only rehabbing his knee, but he's also got an injury to his hand. However, the Broncos are optimistic Kelly will be ready in time for August football.
"Well, he's got the thumb, so we think it's going to be August," Elway said. "He's an August-September guy, too, so we realize it's going to take him some time to get healthy. We're in the process, we'll bring another arm in until Chad is ready to go."
The Broncos signed Northern Colorado QB Kyle Sloter as a college free agent. He will serve as Denver's camp arm until Kelly is ready to go. But as you can see by Elway's comment, the Broncos are looking forward to the spark Kelly will bring in the quarterback competition.
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“I know the Denver Broncos have a great training staff, and I’ve already got a hold of them," Kelly said Saturday night. "We’re going to get to work as soon as I get into Denver. I assume I’ll be ready for the first game.”
By the first game, I assume Kelly means preseason. Because he's far from a shoe-in to even be on the roster in September. There's still a good chance he redshirts his rookie year on injured reserve. However, Kelly will enter a quarterback room with two other young quarterbacks, Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian.
Some analysts are concerned about Kelly's personality clashing with Lynch and Siemian. But Mr. Irrelevant knows he's on thin ice, so he'll have to tread carefully. For what it's worth, Kelly is looking forward to learning from Denver's young QB duo.
“I think they’re great guys to learn from, first and foremost," Kelly said. "They’re in that position because they’ve worked really hard and they’re great players. I’m going to join that room and get started in learning as much as I can from those guys.”
Right now, Kelly is saying all the right things. And the Broncos brain trust are saying some very nice things about Kelly.
It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Despite the nepotistic undertones, I don't hate the Kelly pick. I like it. If he manages to finally get it — a big if — he has many of the tools it takes to be a successful NFL quarterback.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.