Kelly anxiously awaiting draft weekend

For Aaron Kelly, it seemed like it was just the other day he was putting on a football uniform for the very first time.

At that point, the Marietta, Ga., native dreamed of one day playing football in the NFL. He carried that dream through high school and eventually through his career at Clemson University.

Before he knew it, it seemed as if time flew by and all of sudden the opportunity to finally live it was right in front of him.

To Kelly, the first 22 years of his life have flown by, but since the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, time has slowed down a lot for the 6-foot-5, 204-pound wide receiver.

"It seems like it has been dragging by," Kelly said in an interview with CUTigers this week. "I kind of just wish I can fast forward to the weekend. This has been a long time coming. I'm kind of ready to start doing something different."

Since the Gator Bowl, Kelly has spent countless hours training, training, training and then training some more.

"You finish playing your last game and then it is train, train, train for the combine, and then train some more for your Pro Day and then you have different little workouts for the draft," he said. "The waiting is the worse part because that is something that you can't really get ready for."

In all, Kelly has talked with the Jets, Giants, Jaguars, Bears, Texans, 49ers, Falcons and the Patriots. He has had two workouts with the Falcons. All of them have told Kelly they like him and all have him on their draft boards.

"I'm still not sure where I will go. I have talked to a bunch of different teams and a lot have shown interest, but I have no idea," he said. "I hear I could go anywhere from the second to fifth round, obviously the higher the better, but I mean I really have no idea so I will just kind of wait for the phone call." NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber says Kelly, who he has as the No. 16 wide receiver on his board, will more than likely have to wait until Sunday before getting that phone call. He predicts Kelly will be picked up in either the fourth or fifth round.

"He could move up, but I think this draft class at wide receiver is pretty deep," Steuber said. "It is pretty deep at the top and you have some good guys in there that are in the mix."

Steuber says NFL scouts like Kelly's size and the fact he showed some speed at the Combine with his 4.49 speed. But his strength is a major issue. Some scouts feel his drop in productivity from his junior season, when he caught a school record 88 passes for 1,081 yards and 11 touchdowns, to his senior year was a result of him not being able to handle more press coverage.

Kelly caught 67 passes for 722 yards and four touchdowns in 2008.

"He is not the strongest guy and he will have to get off press coverage a little bit better and not shy away from contact as much as he does," Steuber said. "He has good hands, but takes his eyes off the ball sometimes, but I like him and I like him as a mid-round guy.

"If he had a better season last year, then we're probably talking about a second or third round pick. To me, after his junior year, he was very, very impressive. But this past year he suffered with the rest of that Clemson team."

The whole draft experience has been another part of Kelly's life in which he will draw inspiration from. A two-star prospect out of high school, Kelly spent his entire Clemson career wanting to prove those who doubted his ability wrong.

After breaking just about every receiving record at Clemson and then becoming the ACC's all-time leader in receptions, he clearly made his point.

Though he has talked with several teams, Kelly says the draft process is interesting because he never really knows what a team is thinking.

The Jets for instance have a need for a wide receiver, but their need is more for a gamebreaker type player, not a tall and possession kind of receiver like Kelly. The Giants definitely need a wide receiver with the losses of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Odds are the Giants will trade up to get a receiver, but depending on who they get will depend on if they are willing to take Kelly in the later rounds, who would give them the height they are losing with Burress being released.

The Jaguars signed the aging Torry Holt Monday, but they still need a deep threat receiver and Kelly could be a good fit in Jacksonville. Chicago is another team in need of big-time receiver, but are they willing to wait until the fourth round or so take a receiver, especially considering they need a good No. 1 receiver for new quarterback Jay Cutler?

It is interesting that the Texans are even entertaining Kelly as a prospect considering they are loaded at wide receiver. Their needs are at outside linebacker, defensive tackle and running backs. The Falcons appear to be in the same boat and our putting their concentration on the defensive side of the ball.

The Patriots are not coming into the draft with a need at wide receiver, but there is some thought Bill Belichick would love to grab a tall and lean wide receiver and Kelly definitely fits that description.

"You talk to different teams and in some of them you look at their roster and stuff like that and you think there's no way you can go to a team like that. Then they tell you they are interested in you," said Kelly, who will be watching the draft with his family in Marietta. "Different guys from Clemson, who were drafted, they told me they talked to certain teams and they thought that's where they were going and they got drafted by a totally different team.

"I've just learned to kind of be patient through this process and to stay in shape and be ready for where I go."

The 49ers could be that team. But they are looking for a No. 1 type receiver and right now Kelly isn't considered a No. 1 type guy so it's unlikely. San Francisco is deep at all of its other receiver positions with Isaac Bruce and the free agent pick up of former Tennessee Titan Brandon Jones.

"Aaron to me, his size really helps him," Steuber said. "He is a little lanky and can gain a little bit more weight, but I think running a high 4.4 really helped him at the combine."

And now Kelly just has to wait a couple of more days to see just how much.

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