The Rams have Gurley.
Gurley is great at football.
Fresh Todd is better.
This ancient haiku was surely part of the motivation for the Los Angeles Rams when they burned the 176th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft on Tennessee running back John Kelly.
Kelly honed his skills in the same backfield in Knoxville as 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie Of The Year New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara. After Kamara’s departure for the NFL, Kelly was one of the sole threats in Tennessee’s offense in 2017. Kelly proved to be a good receiver, a very good blocker, and a punishing runner. Rams Head Coach Sean McVay was impressed, describing Kelly as, “a physical, violent, downhill runner”. Kelly could be a nice third down weapon out of the Rams’ backfield, but could also excel at finding seams when the Rams run inside zone schemes.
Kelly, who is a legit skateboarder, might just turn out to be a perfect fit in the skate mecca that is Southern California. While McVay would prefer Kelly stay out of the bowls at the Venice Beach Skatepark, it is interesting to think about how some of the skill sets required for skating would translate into being a high-level running back.
Perhaps there’s no correlation whatsoever, but if Christian Hosoi is spotted on the practice squad this fall, we’ll know the Rams have found a new talent pool to dip in to.
RB Malcolm Brown (roster preview) and RB Justin Davis (roster preview) are already in house, and other than Davis’ ball security issues last preseason, both have looked pretty competent. Therefore if the Rams didn’t think Kelly had a skill set that really fit into their offense, they would have probably used the pick on more pressing area of need. Still, with Brown and Davis around, Kelly will have to grind to earn playing time with a solid preseason and training camp.
Brown, Davis and Kelly should be enough to help keep the offensive battery RB Todd Gurley fresh for what they hope will be meaningful stretch run and postseason.
Though Kelly may end up being the Rams first back off the bench, that is the less likely scenario for 2018.
For now, a safe bet would be that Kelly will be one of those guys that fans will remember for having some nice games in the preseason and in a year from now he might get tapped to become a part of McVay’s arsenal.
Chances to make roster (8.5/10)
The Rams could’ve continued to reload their offensive line and linebacking corps in the draft, but they saw something they liked in Kelly. Expect them to keep him around to see if he pans out.
You never know. Someone ahead of him may holdout at some point down the line...