The Buck Stops Here: Kelly hoping road to recovery leads to NFL - The Buffalo News
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The Buck Stops Here: Kelly hoping road to recovery leads to NFL

Surgery was a success, rehabilitation will soon follow and Chad Kelly is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. What awaits the former St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute star and Ole Miss quarterback, whose college career abruptly ended Nov. 5?

It could turn into a multimillion-dollar question for Kelly, who four weeks into the season was rated No. 9 among college quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus. Whatever his draft stock, it undoubtedly plummeted when he limped off the field after throwing for 249 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia Southern.

Kelly’s knee was in the gifted hands of Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who performed the operation this week. Remember, the quarterback came back after tearing the ACL in his left knee while playing in Clemson’s spring game in 2013.

“Basically, he’s doing very well,” Kelly’s father, Kevin, said Tuesday when reached by telephone. “He’s extremely sore. The doctor gave him a good report. He was looking at his bones and his muscles and was very impressed with how strong they are. He was very pleased to see how healthy his legs are.”

Kelly is on the road to recovery, but it’s not clear if that road will lead him to the NFL. Rehabilitation will extend past the Senior Bowl and into other pre-draft evaluation events designed to give scouts a closer look. He may not be fully prepared to work out for NFL teams before the draft April 27-29.

“Time-wise, we’re not really sure,” his father said. “Dr. Andrews feels he’ll come back stronger than he was when he started the season. That’s what we’re hoping. We’re pretty blessed to have the best guy in the country work on him.”

Some would argue the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Kelly, but that’s not exactly true. If he tore his ACL early last season, wiping out his junior year, he wouldn’t have had a chance to build his body of work. He also could have lost the starting job to his replacement.

Kelly completed 65 percent of his passes for 4,042 yards, 31 TDs and 13 interceptions as a junior, his first year as a Division I starter. It was enough for him to consider leaving Ole Miss early and declaring for the NFL draft. Instead, he returned with the intention of stacking another strong season atop his first one.

Even though Ole Miss was 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the Southeast Conference at the time of his injury, Kelly was having a good year. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,758 yards, 19TDs and eight INTs. He also was the Rebels’ second-leading rusher with 332 yards and five touchdowns.

[Related: Chad Kelly rises from the depths as Ole Miss heads to the Sugar Bowl]

It’s difficult to say how much emphasis NFL scouts will place on his productivity before the injury while projecting his future after he recovers. Before the injury, he was expected to be selected in the 2017 draft. He still could get picked, but he also could be overlooked and forced to sign as a free agent.

Regardless, his expected fall in the draft could contribute to him losing a substantial amount of money on the signing bonus alone. Players selected in the fourth round receive signing bonuses in the $400,000 range. It drops to about $50,000 for seventh rounders and is minimal for most undrafted free agents.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Chad Kelly #10 of the Mississippi Rebels is seen during the third quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly during last season's Sugar Bowl. (Getty Images)

“I’m not going to get into anything else,” Kevin Kelly said. “We’re just pushing day by day and staying positive. We’ll just leave it at that. I really don’t want to comment other than to thank everybody for all the blessings people from around Buffalo and around the country have been giving him. We’re blessed to have those people, really.”

This is where things get tricky.

Based on his ability, Kelly’s name would be on most NFL draft boards. He has an NFL arm and excelled in a tough conference. However, scouts could view him as a high-risk player when adding the knee injury to questions about off-field behavior and maturity. He’s had a reputation for being a problem child since high school.

“He’s come a loooong way,” his father said.

Kelly was kicked off the team at Clemson and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after a dustup with bouncers and Buffalo cops. Although he stayed out of trouble at Ole Miss, his judgment was questioned this year after he entered the field to protect his brother during a brawl between St. Joe’s and Bishop Timon/St. Jude.

Most general managers take a conservative approach to the draft, in part to protect their jobs. Every incident, even though some seem petty, affects that decision. Many would pass on Kelly and grab another player with less talent, and less baggage, when considering all variables.

The good news for Kelly, if he becomes a free agent, is that he would have more options to find the right fit.

It would not be surprising if he somehow landed in Seattle. Kelly is no Russell Wilson, but both are mobile quarterbacks with strong arms. Pete Carroll never shied away from a challenge, has the job security to take a flier on an athletic quarterback with great upside and believes he can develop anyone.

At this point, Kelly’s future is anybody’s guess.

Harden stating his case

James Harden evidently didn’t get his point across two years ago when he suggested he should have been named MVP over Steph Curry. Harden averaged 27.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and seven assists per game in 2014-15 while Curry averaged 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

His argument wasn’t over statistics but value. Harden carried the Rockets all season while Curry was the best player on a terrific team with more depth. Last year, Harden averaged 29 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists but was left off the first, second and third all-NBA teams while Curry won his second MVP.

In his first 10 games this season, Harden was fifth among leading scorers at 30.3 points and leading the league with 12.2 assists per game. He’s already had four games, all on the road, in which he scored at least 30 points and had 15 assists.

Never mind Curry at this point. The MVP could be a battle between Harden and Russell Westbrook, who without Kevin Durant was averaging 32 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder.

Brave-for-a-day Tiny Archibald was the only player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season. He averaged 34 points and 11.4 assists in 1972-73 while playing for the Kansas City Kings.

Protests ring hollow without voting

Colin Kaepernick gained national attention when he took a knee during the national anthem to protest the U.S. government and, in his opinion, its oppression of minorities. It was within his right, and the Niners quarterback effectively drew awareness to his cause.

Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans sat through the national anthem last week while protesting the election of Donald Trump as president. It was his way of expressing his frustration over Trump, whom many view as racist and unqualified. He has since apologized to military members that he might have offended.

These guys can express their opinions about whatever they choose and however they please, but both lost me when they didn’t vote in the election. The same goes for the majority of registered voters in this country who stayed home. If you didn’t vote, file your complaints somewhere else.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton. I wrote in my choice, which was my right.

Retweet

Cris Collinsworth, in response to Bill Simmons suggesting someone gently remind the Monday Night Football analyst that the Seahawks’ offensive line looked good because it was playing the Patriots’ weak front seven: “Thanks Bill, we’ll look for you ‘gently’ breaking it down on that hit show of yours.”

Stats Inc.

64, 196 – Homers and runs batted in combined last season for Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, who rejected one-year qualifying offers worth $17.2 million apiece from the Blue Jays.

212 – Yards rushing per game for the Bills in the four victories this season.

109.4 – Yards rushing per game for the Bills in their five losses.

Extra Points

-- The Browns (0-10) could join only three NFL teams that have gone winless over a full schedule since World War II. All three came in an election year: 1960 Cowboys (0-11-1), 1976 Bucs (0-14), 2008 Lions (0-16). The 1982 Colts finished 0-8-1 in a strike-shortened season.

-- Say what you want about Jim Harbaugh, but the man can coach. Michigan fell to fourth in the AP Top 25 poll after a 14-13 defeat to Iowa. Michigan hasn’t finished the season ranked higher than No. 5 since going undefeated in 1997. In two years under Harbaugh, the Wolverines improved from 5-7 to 9-1.

-- Former second pick overall Sam Reinhart, Buffalo’s third-leading scorer last season, had two goals and six points in his first 15 games this year. He was 200th among NHL scorers going into Tuesday’s game. Patrik Laine, picked second overall in June by Winnipeg, had 11 goals and 16 points in 17 games. It’s not all Jack Eichel.

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