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2018 NFL Draft Reaction: John Kelly Goes To The Los Angeles Rams

John Kelly was drafted 176th overall by the Los Angeles Rams. Heading into the draft, Kelly was ranked 12th in the RotoViz Scouting Index, but fell to the sixth round and was taken as the 14th RB overall.

Before analyzing his fit on the roster, let’s look at his overall prospect profile.

John Kelly, Tennessee, 5-10, 216

What the Models Say

Player Final Age Weight Forty 3 cone Att/G Yards/G TD/G Rec/G Score
John Kelly 21.2 216 4.64 7.13 17.2 70.7 0.8 3.4 43

Kelly comes in 12th in the class in terms of Prospect Lab score, which matches up well with his position in the latest RSI. His score here is hurt mostly by his slow 40 time and poor raw rushing statistics. Though some reports had Kelly running in the mid 4.5s on his second run, pro day times are notoriously favorable to the player, so it’s difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s tied for second in the class in receptions per game, though, behind only Saquon Barkley.

This offseason, Anthony Amico introduced his model for grading RB prospects which looks primarily at age, all-purpose yards, and scouting scores. After the most recent updates to the model, Kelly checks in as the 13th RB in the rankings, right in line with what the Prospect Lab and the scouts are telling us.

Player School Age Breakout Age Breakout Age* Log(DS) ADJ APYPG Predict
Royce Freeman Oregon 21.9 19.9 19.9 0.954 136.6 138.2
Mark Walton Miami 20.8 20.8 1 130.8 121.8
Ito Smith Southern Mississippi 22.2 20.2 20.2 1.255 146.4 101
Justin Jackson Northwestern 21.7 20.7 20.7 1.146 122 99.5
John Kelly Tennessee 21.2 21.2 1.041 97.9 97.5
Josh Adams Notre Dame 21.2 21.2 1.204 117.8 85.6
Kalen Ballage Arizona State 22 22 1.079 92.1 83
Akrum Wadley Iowa 22.8 22.8 22.8 1.23 133.3 75.8
Jarvion Franklin WMU 22.1 19.1 19.1 1.38 105.2 74.7
Terry Swanson Toledo 21.4 21.4 1.322 119.8 69.4


Blair Andrews’ series on the effect of draft age on the different positions highlighted the fact that 21-year-old rookies have a significantly better chance of producing a top season than their older counterparts. Though Kelly misses being in the age-21 cohort by just a couple months, he is among the group of players that declared early for the draft.

Production and Marketshare

Year Class G RuAtt RuYds YPC RuTD Rec RecYds YPR ReTD
2015 FR 7 40 165 4.1 1 0 0   0
2016 SO 11 98 630 6.4 5 6 51 8.5 0
2017 JR 11 189 778 4.1 9 37 299 8.1 0

While Kelly’s raw production was somewhat underwhelming, he fares much better when looking at his production from a market share perspective. The Tennessee offense fell apart as a whole in 2017, but Kelly dominated his team’s backfield.

Career Workhorse Scores

Player School 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Career
Phillip Lindsay Colorado 9.89 39.25 86.46 97.01 60.16
Saquon Barkley Penn State 60.97 82.44 92.2 78.63
Ito Smith Southern Mississippi 21.44 36.61 84.58 91.29 62.79
John Kelly Tennessee 3.29 33.19 87.66 48.45
Larry Rose III New Mexico State 60.39 92.06 87.98 83.07 78.95
Rashaad Penny SDSU 0.69 10.98 22.41 78.13 32.54
Ronald Jones II USC 41.02 67.67 76.13 62
Ralph Webb Vanderbilt 67.84 71.34 52.5 75.3 61.81
Kerryon Johnson Auburn 11.83 40.78 74.08 34.82
Justin Jackson Northwestern 68.56 59.53 85.69 72.5 73.57

Kelly’s final-year 87.66 Workhorse Score was fourth best in the class and behind only Barkley when looking at just the backs appearing in the latest RSI. While he’s a good receiver, his utilization shows that he’s more than just a receiver out of the backfield, and could be capable of an every-down role.

Kelly also excels in Blair Andrews’ Backfield Dominator Rating, ranking seventh in the class overall, and third among backs in the RSI, behind only Rashaad Penny and Ronald Jones. It’s a strong usage profile that indicates Kelly could secure a big role in the right situation.

Player School MS of Backfield RuYds MS of Backfield RuTDs MS of Backfield ReYds MS of Backfield ReTDs Backfield Dominator College Dominator
Phillip Lindsay Colorado 96.91% 100.00% 90.49% 100.00% 97.95% 41.97%
Ralph Webb Vanderbilt 70.78% 100.00% 71.21% 50.00% 81.26% 26.34%
Ito Smith Southern Mississippi 75.16% 81.25% 80.00% 100.00% 79.75% 36.66%
Ronald Jones II USC 72.26% 82.61% 48.32% 100.00% 75.97% 34.95%
Rashaad Penny SDSU 73.39% 76.67% 77.59% 100.00% 75.87% 50.51%
Larry Rose III New Mexico State 73.70% 90.91% 65.41% 50.00% 75.26% 30.43%
John Kelly Tennessee 67.36% 81.82% 67.49% 0.00% 74.61% 38.00%
Josh Adams Notre Dame 79.53% 64.29% 92.66% 0.00% 72.28% 26.86%
Saquon Barkley Penn State 72.67% 72.00% 73.75% 50.00% 70.38% 35.74%
Ray Lawry Old Dominion 72.46% 63.64% 21.65% 100.00% 64.51% 42.56%

Put in the perspective of an offense that threw for barely 2,000 yards and only scored a total of 25 TDs, Kelly’s numbers start to look much more impressive. Tennessee’s offensive struggles may have a talented RB flying under the radar.

Player Outlook

How did you feel about James Conner on the Steelers in 2017? Kelly enters a similar situation here, except the workhorse in his backfield is still locked into his rookie deal for two more years, whereas Le’Veon Bell had been a threat to leave in the offseason.2018 Rams RBs

The silver lining here for Kelly is that there isn’t much competition for a backup role on the Rams,1 or for the role of a pass-catching back should the Rams look to spell Todd Gurley more this year. If Gurley misses any time, Kelly would immediately become fantasy relevant, as the Rams are a potent offense that knows how to use their RB creatively.

Being drafted late by the Rams absolutely destroys Kelly’s value in every type of fantasy league.

RB Opportunity Scores


It’s bad enough that he fell all the way to the sixth round, but then he landed on a team with a true workhorse RB on the roster. He finds himself in a situation where he will be completely irrelevant unless Gurley gets injured, at which point he could be a league winner off the waiver wire.

How to Play It

That brings us to the question, should you draft Kelly as a handcuff to Gurley? Most of the research on RotoViz suggests that handcuffing isn’t generally good practice,2 but there are also times where, if the handcuff is cheap enough, it might make sense to go that route.

Until we know for sure that Kelly has definitely won the backup job, it’s prudent to steer clear, whether you believe in him as a player or not.3 The deeper the league though, the more chance that he might fall to a cheap enough price where he makes sense. If you draft Gurley with the first overall pick in a 28-round FFPC best ball league, picking Kelly at the end of the draft where you’re unlikely to find much value anyway would probably be a smart hedge.

In dynasty, Kelly’s stock has dropped through the floor. Outside of a catastrophic injury to Gurley, his potential for earning a starting job in the foreseeable future is virtually nil.

  1. Unless you’re a big Malcom Brown truther.  (back)
  2. At least in your initial draft, though there comes a point during the season where it certainly can make sense.  (back)
  3. I’m a Kelly truther, but I can’t justify drafting him in most situations.  (back)

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