Kelly was actually one of the more high-profile players in the entire draft class but slid to the end due to character concerns and a pair of bad injuries.
Kelly, the nephew and godson of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly, has been hyped up by those close to him, including his uncle.
While taking a family member’s word as confirmation of his skill may be risky, there are plenty of reasons that Kelly won’t be soon forgotten.
Despite a long history of off-field incidents, the first thing people associate Kelly with is his family lineage.
His uncle is Jim Kelly, a 2002 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee who has been praising his nephew throughout the 23-year-old’s collegiate career and even fielded a call from Broncos GM John Elway to endorse the team picking his family member last Saturday.
“If he comes back healthy, watch out,” the former Bills franchise QB told Mike Klis of 9News recently. “Because he’s a heckuva quarterback.”
Being a longtime quarterback in the NFL seems to often lend undeserved staying power to the rest of the family. Phil Simms’ 14-year career paved the way for his sons, Chris and Matt, to each grab a few NFL paychecks despite their general lack of skill. Even Eli and Peyton Manning were known as Archie Manning’s boys for the first few years of their careers.
As mentioned before, Kelly plays quarterback, which happens to be a much more important position than all the others.
If he recovers from his ACL and lateral meniscus tears in time for the preseason, Kelly will certainly see plenty of time leading the Broncos’ offense under center. Kelly hasn’t played since November, but showed NFL talent against top-level defenses in college at Ole Miss.
Kelly famously led the Rebels to a 2015 win over Alabama, handing the Crimson Tide their only loss of the season. The win built Kelly’s reputation as a real playmaking quarterback, partly thanks to a wild touchdown play that Broncos fans should be begging to see more of.
While part of his background does include two solid seasons of play, the focus of his pre-NFL life has been on his off-the-field issues.
Kelly started his career at Clemson in 2012, but was dismissed from the team in 2014 due to conduct detrimental to the team. He was forced to transfer to East Mississippi Community College, which is known as a school for players hoping to get one more chance after mistakes earlier in their careers.
The quarterback had enough success in junior college to garner an offer from Ole Miss in December 2014, but he found himself in legal trouble just weeks later. Kelly was initially charged with multiple offenses after fighting with bouncers at a Buffalo night club and threatening to shoot up the club with an AK-47. He eventually reached a plea deal, receiving 50 hours of community service.
He found himself in trouble again last October when he rushed the field at his younger brother’s game to brawl with high school students.
Kelly’s reputation was bad enough that the NFL didn’t even let him go to the combine, an event generally used to vet players with murky backgrounds.
To honestly call Kelly the most relevant “Mr. Irrelevant”, the other notable final picks of past drafts need to be considered.
Jim Finn, a New York Giants fullback taken in 1999, enjoyed an eight-year career of his own and won a Super Bowl in 2007, but again, fullbacks are essentially just as trivial as kickers.
A handful of defenders have made decent careers as the last picks – DB Mike Green (104 games played; 254th pick in 2000) and LB Marty Moore (112 games played; 222nd pick in 1994) – but none have made much of an impact.
Many have assumed Lynch to be the starter-in-waiting due to his first-round-pick status a year ago, but Elway and head coach Vance Joseph aren’t so quick to dismiss Siemian after a decent first season as the team’s starter. Siemian doesn’t have the athletic upside of Lynch, but showed he can hold down the fort in 2016.
If neither signal-caller takes a strong hold of the starting job by the end of 2017 and Kelly can stay out of trouble, the 253rd overall pick should have adequate time to recover from injury and learn enough of the ropes to join the competition next offseason.
Imagine: a “Mr. Irrelevant” starting at quarterback in the NFL. Now that would be relevant.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
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