The last pick in the NFL draft is typically a college football name you’ve never heard before. He is dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant,” every year.
“We established Irrelevant Week to drive home an important message – that it’s not a negative to be picked last in the NFL Draft; rather, it’s an honor to be drafted at all,” Salata said on the Irrelevant Week website. “The last draft pick’s demonstration of perseverance is lesson that resonates not only with NFL players and fans, but also with people everywhere.”
Salata, 90, was a 10th round pick in the 1951 NFL Draft, a time when 30 rounds existed. But even though he wasn’t a last pick, he’s changed the way the selection is viewed and even forced the NFL to change a rule.
After a standoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams in 1979, commissioner Pete Rozelle forced the Rams to pick and instituted a rule, commonly known as the “Salata Rule,” that mandated the team awarded the final pick is the one to use it.
This year’s Mr. Irrelevant is Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, who was selected No. 253 overall by the Denver Broncos in the final round of the 2017 draft. Unlike Mr. Irrelevants of the past, Kelly’s name is probably one that you have heard of, and looking deeper, there are a few reasons why Kelly’s unique college career has made him anything but insignificant.
His uncle is an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback
Kelly’s uncle is former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who had an 11-year career in the NFL, led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s, and eight postseason appearances total, earning him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Jim reportedly vouched for Kelly and his off-field concerns with Denver general manager John Elway.
"I called his uncle, and he said, 'He's a good kid,'" Elway told ESPN. "I said, 'OK, that's all I need.' I trust Jim with that. Obviously, there's been some history there, but we felt comfortable. Chad understands what he's been through and is ready to take this step and realizes the step that he's taken is different than when he was in college. We're full of confidence that Chad's going to be able to come up here and understand the situation he's in.''
His collegiate career featured stops at three different schools
Kelly’s career got started at Clemson, where he signed in 2012 as a four-star recruit and the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback, per the 247Sports Composite. Kelly was battling for the post-Tajh Boyd starting quarterback job with Cole Stoudt and five-star freshman Deshaun Watson.
According to The Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner, during the 2014 spring game, Kelly spent the second half yelling at coaches. He ended up being dismissed by the Tigers.
Kelly was been kicked off the team at Clemson. Initial incident was Saturday night was a minor fender-bender in the parking lot.— Roy Philpott (@RoyPhilpott) April 14, 2014
No police report was filed as a result of this incident. Kelly met with Clemson coaches today. It did not go well and he was dismissed.— Roy Philpott (@RoyPhilpott) April 14, 2014
Kelly then spent a season at East Mississippi Community College, the setting of Netflix’s Last Chance U, where he threw for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns, won a national championship, and emerged as a four-star JUCO prospect.
From there, he landed at Ole Miss. In Oxford, he played for two seasons, setting 25 school records over his 22-game Ole Miss career. He’s also inside the top 10 in school history in career passing yards (3rd), pass attempts (7th), completions (4th), passing TDs (3rd), total offense (3rd), and TDs responsible for (3rd).
He finished his Rebel career with 6,800 yards and 50 touchdowns passing, along with another 841 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
Yeah, he’s got some other off-field stuff from his past
Back when Kelly was still an Ole Miss signee after his transfer from East Mississippi, he was arrested for an incident at a Buffalo, N.Y. bar. Most notably, he allegedly told a bouncer he was going to get his AK-47 “and spray this place.”
Kelly, 20, of Niagara Falls, refused to leave Encore at 492 Pearl St. about 3:15 a.m. and punched a bouncer in the face, Buffalo police said. Kelly's companion, Brandon Hickey, 21, of Clarence, had been thrown out of the bar earlier and tried to re-enter, police said.
Kelly continued to fight with two bouncers and stated "I'm going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place," according to a report.
Buffalo police officers responding to that alleged threat stopped a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck in which Kelly was a passenger at 458 Pearl.
Kelly was forcibly removed from the vehicle, officers said. Police said Kelly kicked and tried to swing at officers as they removed him from the vehicle. They said he resisted getting into a patrol vehicle and struggled with staff at central booking.
Another off-field incident Kelly was involved in was during his brother’s high school football game. After an on-field fight broke out, Kelly had to be restrained on the sideline from getting involved.
He’s one of the few quarterbacks to have beaten Alabama recently, alongside Deshaun Watson
Before Watson’s Clemson Tigers took down the Tide to win the national title, Kelly was the last one to do so, in 2015.
In Ole Miss’ 43-37 win over the Tide in Tuscaloosa in 2015, Kelly threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. All three of Kelly’s scores came in the second half, including this bonkers touchdown pass that was hauled in by Kelly on the snap on a throw that bounced off a Bama defender’s helmet.
Oh, and one of his other touchdowns was this 73-yard bomb that was at first ruled as an illegal forward pass, but was overturned upon review.
He had some injuries leading up to the NFL draft
In fact, there have been five major setbacks, for him leading up to the draft which started in November. During the Rebels’ game against Georgia Southern, he tore his ACL and lateral meniscus, cutting his senior season short.
And then he suffered a wrist injury that ended his pro day after a few minutes — he subsequently needed surgery for it, which will prevent him from playing even longer.
It looked like he wasn’t thrilled as he remained unpicked in the draft’s final rounds
A slumped-over Kelly perfectly captured just how drawn out the final day of the draft felt.
ESPN was reportedly asked to leave the living room after the picture of him made the rounds on social media. But when he finally got the call from the Broncos, it was much more cheerful.
Chad Kelly's friends and family react to Chad Kelly being drafted with the last pick of the draft by Denver. pic.twitter.com/1EsjAFYYOs— James P McCoy (@jmccoyphoto) April 29, 2017
As you can see, there’s a lot to Chad Kelly.
With Kelly going to the Broncos, he has a pretty strong chance to make the roster. He joins the competition between Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian for the starting job. One thing’s for sure — we should be in for an interesting ride with Kelly, if his past serves as any indication.