John Kelly: 2018 NFL Draft Profile


John Kelly Has Inconsistent Vision and Anticipation

John Kelly can sometimes struggle around the line of scrimmage. His effort, power, lateral agility, and tenacious running style helps to offset some of his flaws, but he definitely doesn’t always make the most of the space he is given. He sometimes takes the obvious path rather than finding the ideal cutback. He doesn’t always survey all of his options.

That said, Kelly generally attacks the first space he can find and uses the rest of his tools to get the most he can.

His anticipation at the line of scrimmage is a bit of a concern. He may need a solid line in front of him a little more than some other backs do. He doesn’t always anticipate penetration and plan out his moves before he gets the handoff. This sets him up for failure far too often.

In the play below, Kelly doesn’t anticipate the penetration from the defensive line in time. He had time to break the run outside if he had anticipated the penetration as he is taking the handoff. Instead, he is late on the recognition and goes down behind the line.

Similarly, in the play below, penetration happens almost immediately. John Kelly is late on his recognition and should have had his cut prepared before he took the handoff. Instead, his delayed recognition creates an extra step that ends in a broken play.

Obviously, the blocking in both of those plays was atrocious, but blocking is not always ideal in the NFL. The ability of a running back to create for himself in the backfield is important, and it is something that John Kelly struggles with. His anticipation and recognition are just not there too often.

John Kelly May Not Be Able To Handle A Full Workload

John Kelly has never had to carry a full workload in college. Sometimes this is something that you would put in the “pros” column. The problem is that, despite his muscular frame, John Kelly is not a big back. At 205 pounds, he may have issues carrying a full workload. Many NFL teams use a committee approach to their backfield, which would help minimize these concerns about Kelly, but a running back that can be a bell cow certainly holds more value than someone who doesn’t hold potential beyond a committee role.

There is no way to know, with any certainty, how well John Kelly will hold up to an uptick in touches over a full NFL season, but his size is certainly a reason to give me pause when trying to project him as a potential starter.

John Kelly’s Running Style May Create Durability Concerns

Similar to Ronald Jones, John Kelly is a back that is on the smaller side who runs bigger than he is. Kelly doesn’t shy away from contact and actually welcomes it more often than not. He attacks defenders. He doesn’t go down easily and never gives up on plays. Kelly runs hard and fights for every yard.

This is one of the best assets of his game, and it is something that would be little cause for concern for a bigger back, especially given Kelly’s ability to minimize contact when given the opportunity.

Unfortunately, John Kelly is not a bigger back. He just runs like one. His frame certainly makes his size less of a concern than Ronald Jones for me, but it is something that I feel would be irresponsible to overlook. Even with a reduced workload, John Kelly may struggle to stay healthy when faced with bigger, stronger, and faster athletes at the NFL level.

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About the Author

Sean Lanigan
I love fantasy football, fantasy baseball, music, books, video games, and all things nerd. I'm a big football fan and a bigger Detroit Lions fan. I was born in Michigan but have spent the vast majority of my life living in Viking and Packer country. If you are a Lions fan in Minnesota, hit me up, and let's watch some football.