John Kelly Has Good Lateral Agility and Elusiveness in Open Field
Something that sets John Kelly apart from the many of the other backs in this class is that he isn’t a one-trick-pony. He doesn’t just win with power. He doesn’t just win with elusiveness. He can win in a variety of different ways because he displays very good lateral agility in addition to his good contact balance and ability to power through defenders.
There are a lot of backs in this class that show good lateral agility, but fail to utilize it to make defenders miss in the open field. Due to Kelly’s quick feet and deliberate movements, he is able to maintain far more lateral agility with forward momentum than many of the other backs in this class that also are able to change directions in a hurry. Combined with his ability to maintain balance through arm tackles, this makes him among the more elusive backs in this 2018 NFL Draft class.
While John Kelly opts to attack the defender at the end of the play below, rather than try and elude him, pay attention to how quickly he is able to cut and get upfield at the line of scrimmage. His quick cut upfield turns what looked to have been a one-yard loss into a twelve-yard gain. It is a simple, but effective display of his change of direction ability.
Something that has been surprisingly scarce in this talented running back class is the ability to make defenders completely miss. There are a good group of backs that excel at minimizing contact, but many of the most explosive backs in the 2018 NFL Draft fail to consistently make defenders actually miss in the open field. John Kelly excels here. The play below isn’t a huge gain, but it is a good example of what Kelly is capable of. He does a nice job to catch the ball away from his frame, look the ball in, and turn and get upfield in a hurry. After the catch, John Kelly does a nice job to size up the defender, fake outside and come back inside. Notice again how Kelly leans his foot back to the inside when he makes the cut, contorting himself to avoid letting the defender get an ankle tackle.
John Kelly has fast enough feet to string together multiple cuts in quick succession. Watch his footwork at the line of scrimmage in the play below. He makes his first cut and smoothly shuffles into a second cut to avoid all of the traffic at the line of scrimmage. He creates a lot of distance with his cuts, something that a lot of backs have not shown the ability to do in this class. The final cut John Kelly makes leaves the defender grasping for air, eluding him completely.