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Freeze: Combine would have boosted Chad Kelly in draft

HOOVER, Ala. -- Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze believes his former quarterback, Chad Kelly, would have been more relevant than Mr. Irrelevant had he been allowed to compete at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. An NFL conduct policy barring certain prospects from the combine prevented Kelly from competing.

Asked if the nephew of Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly would have been drafted higher with a combine workout, Freeze had no doubt.

"If he could have throw in front of people, yes," Freeze said Thursday at SEC Media Days. As it happened, Kelly slipped to the final pick of the draft -- No. 253 overall to the Denver Broncos -- earning the Mr. Irrelevant moniker that is annually attached to the draft's last selection.

Kelly's off-field behavior, however, was only the beginning of the bad news where his draft stock was concerned. A torn ACL during the season prevented him from playing in the Reese's Senior Bowl. When he was barred from the combine for conduct reasons, that left only Ole Miss' pro day workout as his opportunity to throw for NFL scouts. That lasted just 12 passes before he injured his wrist and had to cut his throwing session short, resulting in surgery. NFL scouts' character concerns about Kelly included a 2015 nightclub brawl for which he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and the fact that he was dismissed from Clemson earlier in his college career.

The policy bars prospects from the combine who have convictions for violent crimes, including the use of a weapon, and sexual offenses. The NFL can prevent any prospect from attending the combine based on the underlying circumstances involving the player. Freeze said he isn't clear on exactly why Kelly was barred, and noted that Kelly wasn't the only Rebels player prevented from attending.

"I would love to know more about it," Freeze said. "I would need to know exactly what the mistakes are that keep you out, and if there are reprieves. Neither he nor String (WR Damore'ea Stringfellow) got to go. String had zero issues while with us, nor did Chad. You're partial to your kids, particularly if they've matured to a point that they deserve to go, but I understand policies, too. I don't understand that one completely."

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said Kelly "might have the biggest arm in the draft" in the weeks leading up to the draft. He threw for 4,042 yards as a junior with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2015, and was on pace for similar production last year before injuring his knee in Ole Miss' ninth game.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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