2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Mississippi QB Chad Kelly

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#10 Chad Kelly / QB / Ole Miss: 6’2”, 225lbs

The Good:

– Compact and over-the-top throwing motion
– Can throw with good touch across the middle
– Great anticipation skills and decisive decision-maker
– Strong arm (in terms of his max throwing distance)
– Toughness/Courage in the pocket, never flinches in the face of a heavy rush
– Deceptive athleticism: Kelly is not as graceful as some of the other dual threats in this draft; however, he can make plays with his feet when needed (think Aaron Rodgers running ability). Runs around a 4.70 40-yard dash.
– Accuracy: Although he can definitely improve, he was generally an accurate passer with good ball placement
– Able to work through full-field progressions. He was very comfortable in his offense and demonstrated a mastery of the scheme (especially given that he was a Senior QB)
– Played against quality competition in the SEC. Beat No. 1 Alabama in his Junior Season

The Bad:

– Major character issues and off-field concerns, currently lacks the leadership ability required to be a franchise quarterback
– Gunslinger mentality sometimes causes him to make questionable on-field decisions (throws across his body when rolling out, forces the ball into tight windows, etc.)
– Although he had a terrible offensive line, Kelly still took way too many sacks. He needs to learn to throw the ball away or hit his check-downs more frequently
– Tends to pat the football when initiating his throwing motion
– Despite having a strong arm, his passes lack zip and tend to float.
– Often threw to receivers based exclusive on pre-snap reads
– Puts a ton of weight on his front foot when throwing, causing some balance issues. Not a major problem though
– Footwork is not terrible, but his feet sometimes get out of sync with his upper body. His arm is talented enough where this not usually a major problem; however, he still occasionally throws poor passes that are directly linked to improper footwork


– Passing Stats at Ole Miss: 22 Starts (14 wins, 8 losses), 64% completion rate, 6,800 yards (309 avg.), 50 TD 21 INT
– Rushing Stats at Ole Miss: 187 attempts, 841 yards (4.5 avg.), 15 TD
– Chad is the nephew of Hall of Fame and former Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jim Kelly
– In 2014, Kelly threw for 3,906 yards, 47 TD 8 INT during an undefeated and National Championship season at Eastern Mississippi Community College
Red Flags: Kelly was suspended for 7 games during his freshman year of high school and was later dismissed from the team. He was also dismissed from Clemson in early 2014 for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He subsequently transferred to Ole Miss. Less than a week after signing with the Rebels, he was arrested for punching a bouncer and threatening to open fire at a bar. In 2016, he rushed the field at his brother’s high school football game and was involved in an on-field brawl, which resulted in the game being suspended by the officials.

Film Breakdown:

Chad Kelly’s off-field problems have been well-documented and NFL coaches will have to determine if his talent and potential outweigh his character flaws. Because this assessment will vary from team to team, it is probably more productive to focus on his on-field performance in this scouting report and evaluate him solely from an on-field perspective.

This first clip is a look at Kelly’s throwing motion. He has a quick and smooth delivery with little wasted movement. He occasionally pats the football before initiating his motion; however, this glitch did not affect his accuracy or timing and only seemed to arise when he got deep into his progressions and had excess time to throw. Additionally, he can “throw it from inside a phone booth” as the saying goes, which is a trait that will benefit him greatly when operating within the tight confines of an NFL pocket. Kelly also shows good weight transfer and hip movement when he steps into his throws. In fact, he sometimes steps too forcefully on his front foot, which leads to over-striding and some balance issues (notice how he is slightly off-balance and leaning to his left in the clip. This is not a fatal flaw, but is still worthy of some attention). Overall, he has solid mechanics and a clean motion:

One of the best traits that Kelly repeatedly demonstrated was his ability to anticipate open throwing windows. For example, in this play against Florida State, he finds the soft spot in the coverage well before his receiver actually breaks open. He identified the Cover 2 defense pre-snap, signaling that the deep middle of the field would be open, and also recognized post-snap that the Mike linebacker had a poor angle on the slot receiver’s in-breaking seam route. His quickness in reacting to defenses will help him transition to the NFL:

Here is a freeze-frame from the above clip of the moment that Kelly made the decision to throw. Notice the location of the Free Safety (aligned outside of the slot receiver) and how the Mike linebacker is facing the opposite direction as the slot receiver’s seam pattern. These details do not go unnoticed by savvy quarterbacks:

In this next clip against Georgia, Kelly showcases both his arm strength and his underrated athleticism. He does a nice job of keeping both hands on the ball as he side steps the pressure and he demonstrates great core and leg strength by breaking the tackle.  This pass travels roughly 65 yards in the air, which is even more impressive when considering that Kelly had to throw from an off-balanced position without getting to fully reset his feet:

Kelly was also a fairly significant threat in the run game. Although most of his runs came on broken plays or scrambles, he regularly beat linebackers to the outside to pick up first downs. He was generally able to avoid big hits by sliding or getting out of bounds; however, he is also big enough to lower his shoulder when necessary.  This clip against Georgia is just one example his ability to beat a defense with his legs:

On the negative side, Kelly suffers from some weaknesses that are characteristic of gunslinger quarterbacks. He sometimes tries to throw the ball into extremely tight windows and he also tends to throw across his body when rolling out. For example, in this clip he does a good job of avoiding the unblocked rusher, but he nearly throws an interception by carelessly tossing the ball into quadruple coverage:

Lastly, despite his strong arm and typically being very accurate on deep passes, Kelly was intercepted multiple times by floating passes down the sidelines. This flaw is difficult to explain; however, my guess would be that he simply tries to “place” the ball rather than fully stepping into his throw. This play against Florida State is one example:

Overall, I really liked Chad Kelly –“The Player”– and think that he has Day 1 talent. He demonstrated everything that is required to succeed in the professional game: Toughness, accuracy, athleticism, arm strength, etc. However, despite his obvious on-field ability (and arguably being the best QB in this draft), his off-field issues are of legitimate and significant concern. He has been dismissed from nearly every team that he has played for and he has had several reprehensible legal incidents. As a result, he will surely fall in the Draft, probably to Day 3, and will likely be subject to a zero-tolerance policy from the team that selects him. Having said all this, I don’t think I would be too upset if the Steelers drafted him late.  In my opinion, his NFL potential outweighs his off-field risks and I do believe that players can grow and mature with age (Ben Roethlisberger could be the perfect role model, given the mistakes he made early in his career). Moreover, a Day 3 selection is a relatively small investment that could yield significant benefits down the road.

Projection: Day 3

Games Watched: vs Florida State, vs Auburn, vs Georgia, vs Memphis, at Alabama (2015)

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh CarrawayJosh MaloneKevin King
Fadol BrownChris GodwinNate GerryJordan WillisStacy Coley
Zay JonesJimmie GilbertGlen AntoineTarell BashamDuke Riley
Rayshawn Jenkins

About the Author

Sean McKaveney

Sean McKaveney is currently a student at the UCLA School of Law and was formerly the starting Quarterback and Team Captain for Claremont McKenna College, a Top 10 Liberal Arts school in Los Angeles. Although he grew up in Southern California, Sean was raised as a diehard Steelers fan by his father, a Pittsburgh native. The Steelers are undefeated in games that Sean has attended.

  • Petherson Silveira

    He is always available when i pick in the 6th in my mocks. I like the upside this late.

  • Spencer Krick

    He’d better come cheap if he’s a Manziel like gamble, and even then I think I’d rather draft a player who doesn’t have massive maturity issues.

    As a player, yeah, he’s got a high ceiling.

  • What’s the “over/under” on his draft selection? I’d bet–if I had money to bet, which I sadly do not–that some QB-needy GM won’t flinch to snag him no later than round four, but I won’t be surprised if he goes a LOT earlier. Off field, he’s definitely been a wild card, but not like Manziel at all, who clearly was addicted to the fast life and possibly booze. I expect Kelly to be much more stable as he focuses on being a successful pro…because he’s obviously very motivated to prove himself and succeed.

  • No thank you.

  • Steelers072684

    6th round

  • falconsaftey43

    As a talented QB, you have to do a lot to get kicked off multiple teams. No thanks.

  • The Tony

    I would definitely take a flyer on him late. I also like Jerrod Evans from Va Tech.

  • VinHuddle

    Yeah I agree that the upside is worth a late, (7th Rd only imo) shot. Hopefully he can get his head on straight real fast and stop embarrassing the Kelly name.

  • steelmann58

    some of the style of another steeler qb I heard of.

  • Darth Blount 47

    He sounds like an Oakland (Las Vegas) Raider to me.

    The “Fear Nobody” tattoo on his bicep is very Sebastian Janikowski. I could see them bar hopping and getting into a few melees together. I’d like to say I’d take this little problem child late (6th or 7th), whip him into shape, and have him beat out Mettenberger and Jones as the future backup to Ben. But honestly, I wouldn’t. Let him be someone else’s reclamation project. We have enough of those. And I’d rather not read the article here on the Depot in a year or two about him getting thrown out of a Southside bar and into the slammer. I’m usually pretty optimistic about a kid getting over his issues as he matures and ages, but we ain’t got time for that. We need to focus on less distractions and winning a championship.


  • I’m just tired of character issues. Such a gamble no matter how little you invest. I’ll honestly take Landry over a guy I can’t be sure will keep himself eligible to play

  • The Big Cheese

    Jim Kelly and Big Ben have a friendship of some degree. IF, and it’s a big if, Ben and Jim, one in the hall of fame, the other bound for the hall, could reach this young man jointly, I’d consider selecting him. Man, I hate to see talent wasted.

  • steelburg

    I think we should take some chances this year and see what happens. I think we should roll the dice on taken Kelly late and use or extra 3rd to take Sidney Jones. I also think we should take a gamble on Revis.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Yeah, I REALLY hate seeing talented wasted because of reckless self-destruction. One thing if life deals you a hard to play hand. Totally another when God gives you a rare talent, and then you decide to chuck that all away every chance you are given. We’ll see if someone gives him yet one more chance…

  • Michael James

    No no no no. Three or four months ago this guy initiated a brawl at the highschool game of his brother. He has a few screws loose.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Dual threat QB, Hot head, good arm, reminds me a bit of Bubby Brister.

  • Shane Mitchell

    From what I read he was kicked off the team at Clemson because the coaches wouldnt let him go for it on 4th down during a spring game and he started yelling at the coach in front of the crowd, he is competitive to the extreme.

  • Kevin Patrick

    You obviously dont follow him on snapchat 😂

  • Kevin Patrick

    So its being competitive when you punch a bouncer for not allowing you into a bar because you are not old enough to be in there drinking, and THEN, threaten to come back and shoot the whole bar up.. This being said shortly after Buffalo had a major bar shooting where multiple fatalities took place ? I guess throw in the fact he was drinking underage before attempting to enter the bar and you have a whole slew of charges in a 5 min period for a piss pot who thinks he is entitled because he is Jim Kellys nephew ?!? Lets not even bring up his snapchat pics of him rolling blunts (which will be released nationally hours leading up to the draft) the writer of this article never even mentioned that.. The topper may be jumping onto the field during a H.S. game in progress A FEW MONTHS AGO none the less, and not only causing a brawl that required police to intervene but also to cancel a highly anticipated local game with other student athletes collegiate futures on the line as far as scholarships.. If anything he is a Free Agent after the draft, or should be. He has trouble both within an organization and off the field written all over him. He is a CANCER.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I could see him go in the third and I could see him go undrafted.

  • Shane Mitchell

    So what you are telling me is his personality and conduct is very similar to Joey Porter?
    I also see he had a 4.0 and 3.6 GPA his last two semesters in college and spent his spring break in Haiti on a mission digging latrines for the poor.

  • Kevin Patrick

    You would be better of with Joey Porter handing the ball off to Bell all game, so yes.

  • Thomas

    Jonny Football 2.0: has talent, prefers to party instead of committing to football.

  • John Phillips

    But Tomlin and Porter are okay ?

  • John Phillips

    I’d take him at the end of the 2nd day/ beginning of 3rd day.

  • SoCal Steeler

    Definitely worth a 4th-6th round flier. I’d do the 4th if he demonstrates contrition and was convincing in a personal interview with team officials. I saw him in the NFL network interview. He sounded like he was passing it off as being a stupid kid but was legitimately trying to change his life for the better.
    He is a legitimate franchise type QB prospect not just a backup prospect. I also believe that Ben with his troubled past and similar style could be a perfect mentor for him and if he’s friends with Uncle Jim even better.

  • jsteeler

    Chad was a cancer in the locker room before Deshaun got to Clemson. Jim Kelly had to come down and ask Coach Dabo not to kick him off the team. Rex Ryan even talked to the kid since his Son is a TE on the team. Then he lost his job/opportunity with his little Temper tantrums to Cole Stoudt, That’s right the Pittsburgh Steeler former QB Son of Cliff Stoudt.
    Kelly’s OLE MISS defense caused a couple of turnovers vs Alabama and he threw a couple of red zone TD’s and people thought he’s was great. Wow, but the Scouts know better. He’s a poison. Keep the lid on.
    Go Tigers, Go Steelers and Martavus Bryant is going to “Turn down for what this year”!

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  • Michael James

    When did Tomlin initiate a fight with kids? Porters actions were dumb, but the video actually shows that it wasn’t serious. He didn’t even really fight someone. Kelly’s behaviour was that of an arrogant a**hole. He was a well known CFB player who ran on the field and started a brawl with kids at a highschool football game. That and his other off-the-field problems are really all you need to know.

  • popsiclesticks

    It’s funny how not so long ago, a QB running a 4.7 forty was damn near a Mike Vick type. These guys got athletic in a hurry.