The most captivating running back in this draft class, Tennessee’s John Kelly is an absolute thrill to watch on every single carry. A relentless, unwavering runner, Kelly was listed at 205 pounds by the Volunteers, only to weigh in at 216 pounds at the Scouting Combine. His actual weight was a great relief to those who have fallen in love with the running back’s game; at a hair under 5-10 (5907) and 216 pounds, Kelly becomes a real option for any team searching for a starting tailback.
Thanks in large part to Butch Jones’ apparent inability to recognize talent, Kelly will enter the league with a relatively light workload on his resume, after posting just 327 carries in three seasons. Kelly will follow Alvin Kamara as an underutilized back to leave Tennessee and take the NFL by storm.
Kelly’s stop-start ability and cuts aren’t as devastating as his former running mate Kamara’s, but they are absolutely effective. His athletic ability and change of direction reminds me a bit of Thomas Rawls in his rookie season, a bowling ball of energy doing a thousand things at once and achieving them all.
20 was either gonna get popped or have his ankles turn into liquid so maybe a W for him here pic.twitter.com/AGGeeTNDkR— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
Like the rest of his game, Kelly is unafraid in spotting a cut back lane and hitting it emphatically. Using a devastating combination of power and decisiveness, Kelly’s creativity is best served in space. On inside runs, Kelly stays on schedule but can be frantic, pressing and too eager to do to 1000 different things all at once.
How do you go 4-8 with Kelly and Alvin Kamara on your team pic.twitter.com/dgCa5IdSqu— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
Kelly lacks home run speed, but the functional speed is all there. He has good speed to the edge on outside runs and into the secondary, but won’t separate at the end of runs. On inside runs he runs with great burst and power, making him a tricky proposition for any unfortunate defender.
Send Butch Davis into whatever form of football purgatory Jeff Fisher is spending eternity. pic.twitter.com/rNvcRsnSpZ— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
Finish/Yards After Contact
Like Georgia’s Sony Michel, Kelly’s physicality as a runner doesn’t have to be questioned. It’s apparent from carry number one to twenty. He runs tough, angry, relentlessly and with a vengeance. Kelly doesn’t simply finish runs, he hunts contact and finds someone to punish as often as possible. There will be no yards left behind when Kelly is running the ball; only bruised defenders. Additionally, Kelly is a reliable ball-carrier, giving up the ball on average just once every 123 carries.
Angry runner doesn't do it justice. Kelly is relentless pic.twitter.com/7kWJVwqX8T— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
Finish finish finish pic.twitter.com/0YmZeGZcoM— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
I'm not saying Kelly for sure slowed down for the contact at the end but yeah he definitely slowed down for that contact at the end pic.twitter.com/qc0fto8yqN— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
Either in space on screens and swings out of the backfield or over the middle, Kelly is a reliable pass-catcher who can consistently produce after the catch. He presents a problem for linebackers before the catch in coverage and a problem for defensive backs after the catch in the open field.
With no insider knowledge I am here to declare that going over the middle is the best part of John Kelly's day pic.twitter.com/jIj0PRT741— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 13, 2018
As a blocker Kelly is competitive and willing, but his smaller frame will negate his tenacity against oncoming blitzers at times. His ability in both facets of the passing game makes him an appealing three-down prospect.
Overall, Kelly is an underutilized, over-performing prospect coming from the Jeff Fisher-Rams of the SEC. An arrest prior to the 2017 season will need to be answered to, but on the field, Kelly is an enthralling runner who has a chance to sneak into the second day of the draft.