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Should the Broncos give Chad Kelly a shot?

Could the most interesting Mr. Irrelevant in years be the solution the Broncos are looking for?

Auburn v Mississippi Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

Heading into Monday’s game in Kansas City, the topic of choice in Broncos Country is one that has become the central discussion of the last couple seasons: What should the Broncos do at quarterback?

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph is sticking to his guns so far, despite the current starter grinding to a halt. When asked if Siemian would keep his job after the shutout loss to the Chargers, Joseph was firm: “Absolutely. He’s our quarterback.”

But every NFL fan knows that the acronym sometimes stands for Not-For-Long, and the Broncos’ coaching staff can’t be oblivious to the serious issues plaguing Trevor Siemian this season. Broncos fans aren’t at all wrong to be looking around and debating who should get the next shot.

One of the most common candidates fans are suggesting, behind Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch of course, is rookie QB Chad Kelly, formerly of Ole Miss. Kelly was the 253rd pick of the 2017 NFL draft, making him the first Mr. Irrelevant ever drafted by the Denver Broncos and perhaps the most talented guy to ever hold the dubious honor of that title.

So Kelly was drafted by John Elway- cool. That gets him in the conversation, at least. But should his name get called as the answer to the Broncos’ questions at QB? Let’s take a look.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports


  1. Accuracy: If there’s one thing you’ll hear in the first 60 seconds of any discussion about Kelly, it’s that he earned the highest score of any QB analyzed by ESPN Sport Science in the six years before, going for 19 consecutive “completions” at 10 yards and an unprecedented 10/10 “completions” at 15 yards. So, at least in a no-pressure situation, this might be the dude you want to go with if putting balls on target is your thing.
  2. Arm Strength: Kelly might have the strongest arm of an current Broncos QB, which isn’t easy when Paxton Lynch is also in the QB room. The instagram video is gone now, but last year a clip came out showing Kelly making a 76 yard pass. Since then, he’s endured a surgery to fix a ruptured ligament in his throwing wrist. But that doesn’t seem to have had a permanent effect on his arm strength according to recent reports. (Check below for the embedded tweet.)
  3. Pedigree: Chad Kelly is the nephew of hall of fame quarterback Jim Kelly. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s destined for NFL success, but there are a number of families that do tend to produce multiple NFL players for whatever reason. It’s not impossible that his connection to the former Buffalo Bills QB could help him transition onto the NFL field more easily. It could certainly have helped him learn specific habits and techniques far earlier than other young QBs.
  4. Personality: One of the more intangible qualities that an NFL quarterback needs is a little competitive fire in their belly. Kelly has plenty of that, with a reputation for passionate play and a strong desire to win. That never-say-die attitude is exactly what a team needs to inspire a turnaround when it’s down multiple scores, and that’s something that is currently missing for the Broncos. The dude is a playmaker.

Kelly also enjoyed a pretty successful college career, and has plenty of big plays to his name. He’s an exciting prospect, with a ton of potential.

That said...


This could be broken down into a lot more detail, but the cons for Kelly basically fall under two categories. One of these is completely out of his hands, while the other is entirely under his control.

  1. Lack of Preparation: This isn’t Kelly’s fault, but he’s woefully under-prepared to step onto an NFL field. He ended his final season of college football with two significant injuries that required extensive repair and rehabilitation. As a result, he basically missed the entire offseason and preseason training regimen. He still hasn’t gotten to put in a full practice as we head into the halfway mark of the season. It’d be unfair to him to think he could start in the NFL with just a few days or weeks of practice. He’ll need a month or two of full participation to get anywhere near ready, and that’s if the coaches intentionally aim to get him on the field. If he were to get a shot, he’d be getting compared to players who are all far more prepared than he is, and that might be the very worst thing the Broncos could do to him and to his career.
  2. Personality: That fire and competitive spirit Kelly has can be channeled into some really good stuff on the football field, as mentioned above. But when Kelly lets it control him rather than him controlling it, things can turn ugly quick. Kelly had a whole string of incidents that point toward issues with his personality and character, highlighted by allegedly (based on a bouncer’s word) threatening to shoot up a nightclub with a rifle. There was also an incident of rushing a high school field to fight a player after a late hit on his younger brother, quarterback Casey Kelly.

There’s nothing Kelly can do about the injury issue. It is what it is, even though it sucks. However, the outbursts and out of control temper are a big problem. And if there’s any truth to the bouncer’s claim about his threat, then that’s a major issue that simply can’t be ignored.

To his credit, Kelly’s time as a Bronco has been very quiet indeed, so far. Maybe his famous uncle or his uncle’s buddy John sat him down for a come-to-Jesus meeting. Maybe he just realized that it was time to grow up a bit and clean up his image. There’s not really any knowing for sure.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Broncos roll the dice?

Either way, Kelly needs to overcome both of these things before he can be a legitimate contender to start for the Broncos. When he does that, he’ll be able to let all those positive qualities really shine.

Unfortunately, that simply won’t happen in 2017. There’s not enough practice time to get him up to speed unless he’s truly remarkable. The learning curve he faces is all but insurmountable in the time that’s available. And that’s pretty much that, so far as his chances of starting in 2017 go.

Hopefully Chad Kelly truly has gotten his head straightened out and his negative behavior under control. I don’t think anyone can watch his highlights and not love the obvious talent, so it’d be a shame to see that go to waste and see Kelly go the same way as guys like Ryan Leaf and Johnny Manziel.

Even though it’s not in the cards for 2017, of the QBs the Broncos have right now Chad Kelly is the guy I’d most like to see win the Broncos starting QB job in 2018. He’s got all the talent he needs. He just needs to grow past his problems and perform at the level he’s shown the potential to reach. He could be great for the Broncos.

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Should the Broncos give Chad Kelly a shot to start?

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