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Dare to Compare: NFL comp for Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly

Editor's note: analyst Lance Zierlein will "dare to compare" prospects to NFL players throughout the college football season. This week, he provides a scouting report and comp for Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, who'll face the Alabama defense on Saturday in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the weekend.

In my conversations with scouts, I'll often find that we have the same general opinion on a prospect with slight differences in terms of how much we like him. With Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, I've noticed that I seem to be on an island.

In my opinion, the talent is obvious when you watch Kelly work. However, I've had more than a few discussions with scouts who aren't as sold as I am on Kelly, the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Keep in mind that their reservations about Kelly might stem from the off-field issues he's had in the past and his reputation as being a bit of a hothead who can be difficult to coach.

Kelly, a four-star recruit out of high school, originally signed with Clemson but was dismissed in April of 2014 for conduct detrimental to the team. Kelly signed with East Mississippi Community College (the subject of the Netflix documentary series "Last Chance U") before landing at Ole Miss. Has Kelly matured over the last couple of years? Scouts can make that determination, but I'll give you insight into his game with my scouting report and NFL comp for him.


Kelly is a confident, commanding presence in the pocket. He keeps the ball tucked under his ear and can explode into a throw with quickness. Kelly has very good arm talent. He can alter his release to account for sudden shifts and movements by the defense or his receivers. When it comes to arm strength, Kelly has more than enough.

Kelly throws with decent accuracy and has a fearless streak in him when it comes to challenging defensive backs. He's a feisty scrambler with good escape quickness and is comfortable throwing on the run. He rarely gets stuck on his first read and will bounce from read to read. Good foot quickness.


Kelly's biggest issue is how excitable he gets while on the field. Kelly must learn to slow things down and respond with consistency when the action gets heated. At times, he suffers from poor short-throw accuracy when his mechanics and footwork break down.

The senior QB needs to learn to throw with better touch. There are times when he has way too much pepper on what should be easy pitch-and-catch throws. He has had a tendency to rush some throws rather than letting them come to him. He works primarily from the shotgun and will need to master the footwork necessary to play from under center.

NFL comp: Tony Romo

There are times when I watch Kelly and see the same kind of competitive spirit and bravado that I saw from Philip Rivers when he was the quarterback at North Carolina State. Yet, Kelly is a much better scrambler and overall athlete, so Ryan Fitzpatrick starts to feel like the right comp. Then again, Kelly's arm strength and ability to attack vertically surpasses Fitzpatrick's, so where does that leave us?

When I combine his bravado, arm strength, competitive nature, toughness and ability to operate outside of the pocket, Kelly reminds me of a young Tony Romo. Well, it's either Romo or Rex Grossman, but if his potential is realized, then Romo will be the right comp. Romo and Kelly each have the type of moxie that teams covet from their quarterbacks. With that moxie, however, comes mistakes and those issues are a part of their games, too. Like Romo, Kelly can extend plays with his legs and can still attack down the field, even when he roams outside of the pocket. Kelly's senior season will go a long way toward determining his draft stock, but he has the skills to compete for a starting job in the NFL.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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