Why 2017’s Mr. Irrelevant may not be so irrelevant

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Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) passes in the second quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) passes in the second quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There are many perspectives in which to look at the Denver Broncos’ selection of quarterback, Chad Kelly, with the final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Questions abound, all of which seem relevant, worthwhile and meaningful, while also being superfluous and overbearing. Welcome to the NFL in 2017, where everything means something; and nothing too.


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Before digging in, first some background information in regards to the most recent member of the Denver Broncos:

  • Kelly’s three-year college stats: 63.9 completion percent 6,858 passing yards , 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, in 27 overall games, while spending time at both Clemson and Ole Miss.
  • Kelly was dismissed from Clemson after getting into a parking lot accident and screaming at coaches during a game so badly that they benched him for the entire second half. The former Tiger then got into an altercation with a bar bouncer, punching him in the face, then threatening to commit a massacre with an assault rifle just days after signing to Ole Miss. Kelly also admitted to making a threat to his team that he either be named the team’s starting quarterback or he would be quitting the team (in favor of lacrosse). Kelly was also involved in a fight at a high school football game in which he ended up on the field. Kelly has been photographed rolling a joint and during a traffic stop, took a swing at officers and struggled with the staff at central booking.
  • He is the nephew of Buffalo Bills’ great Jim Kelly, who was in the same quarterback class as good friend and Broncos’ general manager, John Elway.
  • A call was placed between Elway and Kelly before the final selection was made.
  • Former Colts’ general manager, Bill Polian, who built yearly Super Bowl contenders with Peyton Manning, called Kelly the best quarterback in the 2017 draft class. It is worth noting that Polian then went on to trash Kelly just before he was drafted.
  • Kelly has not taken a snap during a game since November fifth of last season, when he injured his knee.
Was the pick a good one? Do the Broncos need a quarterback?

Both of the Broncos’ quarterbacks can be summed up with a feeling of ‘eh’. When put into statistical context, Trevor Siemian is no better or worse than Jay Cutler, who was not truly awful, but was not truly great either. Paxton Lynch is much better and probably won’t be leading Denver to the promised land either.

Kelly, on the other hand, comes from NFL royalty, has excellent college stats and has been said to have the coveted moxy required to excel at the quarterback position. With Kelly being selected with the last pick in the draft, it doesn’t get much more ‘low risk – high reward’ than that.

Did he fall in the draft due to his injury and/or problems while in college?

Unquestionably; based off of his stats alone, Kelly could have been a first or second round pick. Considering that the Chicago Bears just took a kid with 13 starts at number two overall, it is completely possible that Kelly may have gone in the top-15. Though Kelly only played in 9 games last year, when his averages are placed into a 15 games sample size (matching the number Deshaun Watson played) their 2016 season stats compare well:

  • Chad Kelly: 62.5 completion percent, 4,596 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions — 135 rushing attempts, 553 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns
  • Deshaun Watson: 67 completion percent, 4,593 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, 17 interceptions — 165 rushing attempts, 629 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns

They are nearly identical players, who played in the same conference.

Is Chad Kelly the best quarterback prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft?

From pure football talent perspective, Kelly might be. This was a weak quarterback class to begin with and many had felt that the best quarterback in the draft, Deshaun Watson, was laughably taken third among drafted signal callers. Considering that Kelly projects similarly well to what Watson accomplished last season, it is at least worth the conversation. The Broncos may very well have landed one of  the best quarterbacks in the draft with the very last pick.

Was Kelly given an opportunity that other players may not have?

Now this is a deep question and it is nearly impossible to answer. Kelly is a quarterback, so inherently he will be looked at on a different scale than a player at any other position. Quarterbacks are so important in this era of the NFL, that even a kid with a glaring past will at least get a look; and this does not necessarily mean Chad Kelly. All things considered, it could just as easily be someone like Johnny Manziel.

We could easily also be asking about race. If Kelly were a black quarterback, would he have been drafted at all? Some will comment and ask about Joe Mixon, who was charged with assault and had an ugly video recording of the incident made public. Kelly was also charged with assault, but of a police officer, and had video of him during a bar fight released. The difference is Mixon paid the debt that the court system levied upon him and has shown remorse. Kelly paid his debt too, yet had his run of trouble before the event and then again after. Both players took plea deals (100 hours of community service and a fine for Mixon; 50 hours of community service for Kelly) and both were excluded from the NFL combine.

Was Chad Kelly drafted by the Broncos because John Elway is close to Jim Kelly?

At the very least, the most that can be said is, “It doesn’t hurt that Kelly’s new boss is one of his uncle’s closest friends.” There has been no secret made that Elway called the elder Kelly before the pick was made to ask for a true assessment of the kid and that may, above all else, have worked most in Chad Kelly’s favor. He has a true blue blood NFL pedigree with a famous uncle. Is it an advantage; amazingly so. Is it an unfair one; some might say yes. Yet, someone has to get picked last in every NFL draft. It just turns out that this year, that player is nowhere close to irrelevant.

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