Some might have questioned University of Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly when he picked the Sooners over such universities as Nebraska, Louisiana State and Texas. He was joining a program that was known to utilize a run-oriented offense, not exactly conducive to putting up great numbers at his position. However, his talent would shine through as he enters the 2008 NFL Draft as one of the top receiving prospects. Kelly finished his career fifth in school history with 144 receptions and second with 2,285 receiving yards. During the 2005 season he became only the fourth freshman receiver, and the first since 1976, to lead the team in receiving. Combine the production with the talent and Kelly emerged as one of the top wideouts in the nation.
Things didn't go as smoothly for Kelly once he hit the offseason workout schedule. Kelly suffered a leg contusion during the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, which forced him from the game and kept him from being ready to go at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine. Instead he waited until Oklahoma's Pro Day to run. Kelly ended up turning in a 4.68 40-yard dash, which disappointed many scouts. This caused Kelly to blame the team for misdiagnosing his injury and switching venues, which changed the surface he was scheduled to run on. This situation has brought up questions about not only his speed but his character as well, and it could see him drop out of the first round.
Whoever ends up with Kelly will have a great physical prospect on their hands. Kelly stands tall at 6-foot-3 3/4 and weighs in at 224 pounds. He still has room to grow as well and could add another 10 pounds without losing a step. His size would be nothing if he didn't know how to utilize it, something Kelly does very well. He has long arms and his hands are among the best in the draft. Over his final two years Kelly dropped just one pass. Once the ball is in the air, Kelly does a good job of shielding defenders with his body and hanging on to it even after taking the hit.
His size isn't his whole game as he still possesses enough speed to get behind the coverage regularly. He is not so much fast as he is quick, which can force cornerbacks to play off of him, which only opens up the game even more as he is a dangerous playmaker in the open field. Anyone trying to wrap him up will also have to make sure they take him head on as his strength and speed along with is exceptional balance make him tough to bring down.
Kelly is a willing blocker on the outside, though not overly physical, often putting himself between the defender and the ball carrier to seal off their pursuit.
Kelly did not have any off-the-field problems at Oklahoma, but his recent Pro Day workout has some questioning his character. Ironically, it was his time in the 40-yard dash that caused the outburst, and yet when he ran again (on Astroturf this time) he still fell in the 4.63-4.65 range according to some watches, while others clocked him at 4.46. Bottom line, Kelly doesn't have great top-end speed, although his long legs give him some quickness. Where it hurts him most is in the short game as it takes him a little while to build up speed, and he does not have the breakaway speed and acceleration that some other receivers have to begin with. His route running has also fallen under scrutiny as he has not been crisp coming out of his breaks.
A few injury problems have also surfaced over his years at Oklahoma. During the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, Kelly suffered a knee injury that would later require surgery to repair cartilage damage. This would keep him out of spring camp. He suffered two injuries his last year, a hip pointer and a leg contusion, which both times knocked him out for the majority of games. Two of those injuries (knee, leg) came at the end of each season, which could be a sign that his body doesn't hold up well over the long run.
Expected Draft Placement
Kelly was projected by many as one of the top receivers in the league, and he could still be, but it is hard to place him after his slow time in the 40-yard dash and subsequent blowup at the Oklahoma coaching staff. The Buffalo Bills have need of a big, physical receiver at the 11th pick, but they will likely look past Kelly after his recent troubles. He could be taken in the latter stages of Round 1 with several teams needing receivers on the clock in the mid-20s and beyond, though he might also tumble all the way into the middle stages of the second round. Undoubtedly one of the hardest players to pinpoint heading into the draft, Kelly's talent should assure that he remains a first-day draft pick, but where exactly he'll land is still up in the air.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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