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|
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|
|Ito Smith||Southern Mississippi||22.2||20.2||20.2||1.255||146.4||101|
|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|
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
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
|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|
|Larry Rose III||New Mexico State||—||60.39||92.06||87.98||83.07||78.95|
|Ronald Jones II||USC||—||—||41.02||67.67||76.13||62|
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|
|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%|
|Larry Rose III||New Mexico State||73.70%||90.91%||65.41%||50.00%||75.26%||30.43%|
|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.
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.
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.