The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, owners of the ninth and eleventh overall picks, are among the clubs expressing a great deal of interest in the All-American receiver. Bengals wide receiver coach Mike Sheppard orchestrated Wednesday's positional drills, and the team planned to fly Kelly into Cincinnati for a private meeting soon after the day's workout ended. The Bills, according to published reports, were among the first of several teams who lined up private meetings with Kelly, playing host to him March 18-19.
Teams considering Kelly a first-round pick may be forced to rethink their grades, especially those who had him as a possible top-10 selection.
Only a handful of the 54
wide receivers who ran the 40 at the Combine were clocked there with slower
times than Kelly. None are currently projected by NFLDraftScout.com to be drafted
before the fifth round.
While Reggie Smith's 40-yard times were better than Kelly's, they were still disappointing. The 6-foot, 192-pound Smith was clocked at 4.65 and 4.61 seconds. While Smith's other numbers Wednesday (39.5-inch vertical, 10'9" broad jump, 4.03 short shuttle, 6.70 three-cone drill) rank among the best recorded by any cornerbacks at the Combine, the lack of pure speed could force Smith back to safety in the NFL. If that's the case, his chances of landing in the first round have been weakened.
However, estimated in the mid-4.5s throughout his career and coming off the broken big toe in his right foot that kept him out of the Fiesta Bowl, Combine and Oklahoma's first scheduled Pro Day on March 11, Smith's performance was reasonable.
It was Kelly that left scouts buzzing.
Kelly, who weighed in at 6-3 7/8 and 224 pounds, had been previously unable to work out for scouts at the Combine or at the first Pro Day due to a slight quadriceps tear in his right leg. Speculation of a more serious injury prompted Kelly's agent, Chad Speck, to send a letter to all 32 teams reassuring them of his client's health. Speck also sent teams a letter from Dr. Michael Hatrak of Alpharetta, Ga. who diagnosed Kelly with the "slight quadriceps tear" on Feb. 14. Hatrak only cleared Kelly for full training March 20.
With only a few weeks to prepare, Kelly's slow times did not come as a surprise to some NFL personnel.
One high ranking official, whose team is considering drafting a receiver in the first round, left the workout cautioning anyone from putting too much stock into Kelly's lack of speed Wednesday. "He wasn't very fast, but you have to keep in mind that he's only been cleared to run for a few weeks. What was he going to do, not run?"
As if checking himself,
however, the official went on to add, "It wasn't his most impressive moment,
though, that's for sure."
Kelly's performance in the vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (9'9"), short shuttle (4.24) and three-cone drill (7.0) were all more in line with the elite receiver prospects of this draft. Kelly performed quite well in drills, showing good burst in and out of his breaks and caught the ball cleanly.
"He might have the best hands in the draft," the official noted.
Characterized as "quite animated" after the workout, Kelly bemoaned the decision by Oklahoma representatives to hold the 40 on FieldTurf and was seen arguing with officials and even throwing his shoes in anger. Kelly had asked for the 40 to be run on Oklahoma's indoor AstroTurf track, a harder surface more conducive to the training he'd done previously. Kelly told the Tulsa World that, "it was already settled we were going to run on that AstroTurf stuff. But as soon as we walk in here this morning, the cones are set up to run the 40 in here."
The NFL official didn't seem fazed by the FieldTurf dilemma. "Fast guys run fast. We adjust our times based on the surface anyway."
Of more interest to scouts than the surface in which he ran on was Kelly's inconsistency in 2007.
The receiver battled injuries late last season to finish behind Joaquin Iglesias as Oklahoma's second-leading receiver. While his 49 receptions for 821 yards and nine touchdowns are impressive, scouts remain concerned with the way Kelly tailed off as the season went on. He caught seven of his nine touchdowns in the first three games, scoring only twice in the final 11 games. Kelly's dominant start was against the likes of North Texas, Miami (Fla.) and Utah State -- teams that finished 35th , 90th and 95th in pass defense out of 119 Division I teams.
Rob Rang is a Senior
Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.