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2017 NFL Draft: Can Chargers Find Rivers’ Successor? - Part 1

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First up is Ole Miss Quarterback Chad Kelly.

Petre Thomas

For the past few years, the Los Angeles Chargers have looked for a quarterback late in the draft and in free agency in hopes of finding a potential successor after Philip Rivers. Unfortunately, the team has yet to find their next quarterback in waiting. Guys like Brad Sorensen, Jonathan Crompton, and Mike Bercovici have shown very little hope and/or failed to make the roster.

This year’s quarterback class is interesting, to say the least. While the position is not a major need at the moment, Rivers isn’t getting any younger nor will his body be able to take the unnecessary hits with a current below-average offensive line.

If the Chargers decide to draft a quarterback late in the draft, there are a few names to get familiar with including Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, Penn’ Alec Torgersen.

Over the next week, we’ll take a look at these players to see if one of them can become a future quarterback in waiting for the Bolts. First, let’s start with a personal favorite and more intriguing QB in this class:

Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly – 6-2 215 lbs. 2,758 yards 19 TDs 8 INT 63% in 2016 (9 games).

Chad Kelly, nephew of NFL Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, has been in the news recently as he will not be able to attend the upcoming 2017 NFL Scouting Combine due to a new rule that states - “draft-eligible prospects will not be permitted to participate in any aspect of the Combine if a background check reveals a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence, sexual offense and/or sexual assault. The NFL also reserves the right to deny participation of any prospect dismissed by their university or the NCAA.”

In 2014, Kelly was dismissed from Clemson University and later that year Kelly was arrested on multiple misdemeanor charges.

Though unable to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine this upcoming weekend, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock doesn’t believe it will hurt Kelly’s draft status.

“I don't think it's hurting him that he's not at the combine," Mayock told The Clarion-Ledger. "But he's going to need to put his best foot forward with all the individual meetings with the teams."

While this might look bad, this will likely keep Kelly in the 5-7th round where the Chargers would feel more comfortable selecting him. Kelly has since cleaned up his act and has pushed forward while leading the Ole Miss football team to a 14-8 record in two years as a starter. On November 5th, a home game against Georgia Southern, Kelly suffered a season-ending ACL and meniscus tear. Thankfully, he will be ready to participate in all drills during Ole Miss Pro Day on April 3rd in Oxford, Mississippi.

Mayock went on to say something that resonates with the Chargers franchise and what Kelly will need at the next level in order to succeed.

“Have an infrastructure in place, starting with the head coach, the coordinator, the quarterback coach, and the quarterback room," Mayock said. "You better have an infrastructure in place that's going to take care of this kid and make sure he makes the right decision."

Strengths

The reason why Chad Kelly would be the best fit for the Los Angeles Chargers is his playing style goes hand-in-hand with Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive scheme. Though we might see some change with new head coach Anthony Lynn at the helm and him wanting to implement a more ground running game. This will only help Kelly develop as a better passer with more shorter, quicker time throws.

Don’t let the college spread offense scheme fool you, Kelly has an arm and arguably one of the best in the class. Kelly’s passes averaged 13.45 yards, which finished 29th in the nation, better than Joshua Dobbs and Patrick Mahomes, per NCAA.com. Remember, Kelly only played in 9 games in 2016. The Ole Miss Rebels used just about every route on the tree, which teams can expect Kelly to make every throw. Thanks to our fellow SB Nation Ole Miss blog – Red Cup Rebellion – in three of the first four games of the 2016 season (Florida State, Alabama, and Georgia), Kelly passes were:

  • Behind LOS: 11/15 (73.3%), 32 yards
  • 0-10: 27/38 (71%), 241 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
  • 11-20: 15/25 (60%), 290 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
  • 21-30: 5/12 (41.7%), 135 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • 31-40: 4/10 (40%), 174 yards, 2 TD
  • 41+: 3/3 (100%), 143 yards, 1 TD

A total of 65-of-103 (63%) for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns to three interceptions against some pretty good competition early in the year.

Along with his strong arm, Kelly can extend plays with his feet that have made simple runs turn into major gains. In just 22 career starts, Kelly rushed for almost 1,000 yards (832) and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

Weaknesses

Kelly knows he has a strong arm and he can become too confident in and force passes in multiple coverages. Another weakness from Kelly is his footwork in the pocket. The combination of pre-determining his throws and throwing off his back foot resulted in several inconsistent balls and 21 interceptions in his collegiate career.

Also, Kelly’s injury history doesn’t help his case either. Having torn his ACL twice in college (2013, 2016) and having a sports hernia surgery last April, scouts are wary of his ability to take hits throughout the season and play consistently.

Final Take

This may look like a player to stay away from, especially given the history of Chargers players unable to stay healthy. Nevertheless, the upside to Chad Kelly and the intriguing opportunity of him learning from one of the best passers in the game is something to consider. He’s a risk-reward player. A potential leader of a franchise after a few years of sitting on the bench and learning the game.

Kelly is a personal favorite of mine but I am also realistic and understand the obvious concerns of his health and previous off the field issues. I tend to give players multiple chances and I believe Chad Kelly deserves a team to take a chance on him. Will the Chargers be that team?

I’ll be back Thursday with a report on Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs and his potential of becoming the next quarterback in waiting for the Los Angeles Chargers.