Chad Kelly has decided not to cause a stir.
The St. Joe’s graduate and Ole Miss quarterback had contemplated attending the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis despite having his invitation rescinded by the league recently.
Representatives for Kelly, however, told The Buffalo News on Tuesday that he would not attend, adding that he’s getting ready for his Pro Day at Ole Miss on April 3.
NFL teams would not have been permitted to meet with Kelly in Indianapolis under league rules, a former personnel executive with familiarity of the process told The News. Kelly, who is rehabbing from surgery in November to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, will be able to speak with teams at the Rebels’ Pro Day, as well on as any pre-draft visits teams wish to conduct with him.
Still, he’ll miss the opportunity to have all 32 teams be gathered in one spot. Undoubtedly, several teams will want to hear Kelly’s explanations for the off-the-field incidents that have followed him throughout his college career. Kelly’s not the only high-profile player who won’t be at the combine. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon also won’t attend after he was videotaped punching a woman in the face.
“What I’d like to see, instead of not inviting them, I’d like to proactively get after the situation, get in front of the situation and sit these kids down at the combine, these troubled players, and give them a level of expectations if they want to play in the NFL,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “Let’s sit these kids down and proactively get in front of it and try to make them good citizens along with good football players.”
In addition to the interviews and on-field workouts held at the combine, prospects also go through a full battery of medical tests, providing teams with valuable updates on their physical condition.
“The combine was set up for this type of situation,” Mayock said. “As a matter of fact, it was set up as a medical clearinghouse for all players back in the early '80s – medical, psychological, off the field. This is the ideal environment to deal with some of these character players and maybe, to take it a step further, proactively, vet them.”
By banning players like Mixon and Kelly from the combine, Mayock said the NFL “was trying to do the right thing. But I think if we really think it through, I think there are better ways to deal with it.”
Kelly’s draft stock is a bit of a wild card. The off-the-field concerns will surely push him down, while teams will have to feel comfortable with his medical records after he’s torn the ACL in his right knee twice.
On the field, however, Kelly has flashes that impress Mayock.
“I think worst-case scenario, he’s got second-round talent,” Mayock said. “But when you throw the medical and off-the-field in there, I don’t think he’s going in the first two rounds. … I don't think it's hurting him that he's not at the combine, but he's going to need to put his best foot forward with all the individual meetings with the teams.”
Mayock said Kelly would be in his “conversation” of the top five quarterbacks in the draft without his red flags.
“He might even sneak into the first round in some drafts, again, without the medical and without the off the field,” he said.
In 22 starts at Ole Miss, Kelly had a 14-8 record with a 64-percent completion rate, 6,800 yards (8.7 yards per attempt), 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He also ran 187 times for 841 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“What I liked, he beat Alabama at Alabama. That tape was good,” Mayock said. “He beat LSU. … The tape against LSU was really good. He can push the ball down the field. He’s got a big arm. And he’s a tough guy.
“My one on-the-field criticism, would just be that like a lot of big-arm quarterbacks, he likes to wait and see the route come open rather than have the anticipation and touch to put it out early, but I think that’s something that the big-armed guys learn later.”
As April’s draft draws nearer, the obvious connection between Kelly and Buffalo as the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly will only be emphasized more. Add in that the Bills’ quarterback situation is far from settled, and there will be plenty of speculation about Kelly coming home.
Mayock was asked whether he thought the Bills could be a fit.
“I’m sure he would,” he said, before adding, “you’ve got to figure the kid out. I’ve never met him. All I know is there’s a bunch of stuff about him off the field.
“You better figure the kid out, and you better have an infrastructure in place, starting with the head coach, the coordinator, the quarterback coach, and the quarterback room, you better have an infrastructure in place that’s going to take care of this kid and makes sure he makes the right decision.”