For some athletes, it seems like bad luck just keeps on coming. That may seem like an understatement when examining the last five months for former Ole Miss quarterback and NFL draft prospect Chad Kelly. In recent months, he’s dealt with a wave of injuries, as well as getting left off the list of NFL combine invitees.
Kelly suffers a season-ending ACL tear
Kelly’s final season as Ole Miss’ starting quarterback was cut short in the first week of November. After leaving the game against Georgia Southern in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury, it was later reported that an ACL tear, as well as a torn lateral meniscus, ended his senior season.
He threw for 2,758 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season, along with just eight interceptions. Red Cup Rebellion quantified just how valuable Kelly was for the Rebels:
It’s a crushing blow to a team that once fancied itself a SEC West contender but now finds itself fighting for bowl eligibility. Ole Miss needs to win two of its final three games against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State, a task that was far from guaranteed even before the news on Kelly,
It’s hard to oversell Kelly’s significance to this offense. Sure, he hasn’t been as accurate with the deep ball and has shown regression in decision making this season, but he’s still accounted for 74 percent of Ole Miss’ total offensive yardage and 60 percent of its touchdowns.
Kelly’s Ole Miss career was a bright one, especially when compared to his SEC peers. His 4,551 total yards from 2015 rank third overall in SEC history, topped only by Johnny Manziel in 2012 and 2013. Red Cup Rebellion also shows how much Kelly improved Ole Miss’ offense as a whole upon his arrival in 2015.
Injury causes Kelly to miss Senior Bowl
The Senior Bowl is an opportunity for NFL prospects to compete for a week in front of scouts and meet with representatives of NFL teams.
Kelly, who accepted the invite before sustaining his injury, was able to attend the Senior Bowl events and meet with teams, but not being able to participate in practices or the game at the end of the week certainly didn’t help his stock much. In a pretty mediocre class of quarterbacks, aside from Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and UNC’s Mitchell Trubisky, he could have used the valuable reps in front of NFL teams.
NFL doesn’t invite Kelly to the combine
The combine had some top players missing, and Kelly was one. Kelly joined Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, whose video of him punching a woman in the face went public last December, and some other prospects who had instances of either suspensions or arrests.
Kelly reportedly wasn’t invited because of his “off-field issues,” which he has had a few of.
It seems that Kelly’s history of being dismissed from Clemson, allegedly being involved in an altercation with a bar bouncer, running onto the field during a high school football skirmish, and being photographed while rolling a joint has soured his image in the eyes of many NFL scouts. His penchant for drawing stupid headlines, in the context of the NFL Draft’s weird grindhouse, has now apparently barred him from the most important job interview of his life.
A wrist injury ends his pro day after just 12 throws
Kelly finally had the opportunity to throw in front of NFL teams during Ole Miss’ pro day on April 3. But a strained wrist caused him to have to stop after just five minutes.
“It’s just a strained wrist,” Kelly told the Clarion-Ledger after walking off the field 12 throws into what was supposed to be a 35-to-45-throw script. “It happened earlier last week. I tried pushing through it this whole week. Felt good and then just kinda threw one, turned my wrist over pretty hard. It felt weird... so the guys decided to call it quits for the day and hopefully come back in a week or two.”
“Strained” wrist requires surgery
As it turns out, that strained wrist was worse than anticipated. On Tuesday, Kelly’s camp announced that he suffered an “acute rupture ligament between two bones in his wrist,” which will require surgery. Having to go under the knife means he won’t be able to throw for another three months. If he does get picked up by an NFL team during or after the draft, that means he still won’t be able to throw until at least training camp, if his rehab remains perfectly on-schedule.
When laying out all Kelly has gone through in the recent months, it’s pretty disheartening. Given his injuries, his inability to do much of anything in front of NFL scouts, and off-field issues that matter more to teams with the current climate around the league, it’ll be interesting to see where Kelly lands. CBS Sports projects Kelly to get taken in the seventh round. Prior to his most recent injury, SB Nation’s recent quarterback rankings had him at No. 8.