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NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Ryan Kelly, Center, Alabama

Position: Center
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 311
Year: Senior
Hometown: West Chester, OH
Experience: 2 year starter


Arm Length:         33 5/8 in.

Hand Size:            9 5/8 in.

40yd dash:           5.03

Bench Press:      26 reps

Vertical Jump:    30 in.

Broad Jump:       8 ft. 7 in.

3 Cone Drill:         7.58 sec.

20 Yard Shuttle:  4.59

Career Notes:

Kelly became the full-time starting Center in 2012 after redshirting his first season with the Crimson Tide, starting all 9 games that he played in. He would go on to start throughout his Junior and Senior season, missing 2 games in 2014 because of a knee injury. Kelly helped lead the Crimson Tide offensive which was routinely one of the best in the country at running the ball and avoiding sacks, especially when Kelly was a senior. Last season, Kelly won the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s top center as he blocked for the eventual Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.

Injury Report:

Kelly started all of his games as a Senior, but did miss 2 games with a sprained knee as a Junior. Avoided any major injury during his time at Alabama, but did suffer a torn ACL during his high school playing career.


Run Blocking – 3.5/5

How good you think Kelly is as a run blocker depends entirely on what offensive system your team runs. If one runs a predominantly power-based scheme, it would be hard to grade Kelly much above adequate, but as a zone-blocking center, few show greater potential to be a stud in this class. He does struggle a bit when tasked with blocking defensive tackles that are significantly bigger than him and  line up directly over him, which does not allow him to get to either side of the DT to gain leverage.

Pass Protection – 2.5/5.0

Kelly is a better run blocker, but also holds his own as a pass protector. He lacks the desired bulk to handle bull-rushes from the elite 3-techiniques of the world, but with the preponderance of 3-4 defenses with much of the pass-rushers playing on the edge, he will not have to face the stud interior pass rushers that permeated the league a decade ago. At Alabama, Kelly was often given help by one of his guards to some of the best interior pass rushers he faced in the SEC and that pattern seems likely to continue at the next level.

Agility – 4.5/5

No matter how you choose to evaluate Kelly, it is impossible not to come away impressed with Kelly’s agility. Despite weighing in at 311 lbs. at the combine, compared to other prospects at his position, he scored in the 77th percentile in the 3 cone drill, the 64th percentile in the 20 yard shuttle and in the 72nd percentile in the 10 yard split. And unlike some players who perform well at the Underwear Olympics, Kelly flashes that same agility when you view his tape. He routinely explodes out of his stance at the snap before quickly getting to the 2nd level to take on a linebacker.

Athleticism – 3.5/5

Kelly’s athleticism does not just stem from a strong first step. He also shows the ability to quickly move on from his initial block to help block defenders at the second and sometimes even third level of the defense. These blocks are key to creating huge plays in the run game, especially in a one-cut zone system where a well-created hole can spring a running back for huge gains play after play. Kelly is particularly adept at downfield blocking assuming there are no 0 or 1 techniques to deal with. On several occasions, Kelly was one of the main blockers on tunnel screens, which required him to get as much as 15 yards up the field to block a member of the opposing secondary to help spring receivers for big gains. 

Football Savvy – 4.0/5

Playing for a demanding coach like Nick Saban can be tough on any player, but by all indications Kelly handled the pressure as well as one could expect. Kelly can often be seen directing traffic for the Alabama offense, pointing out potential blitzers to whichever quarterback he was snapping the ball to. These protection responsibilities are something almost every NFL center must quickly pick up and understand as they are often tasked with relaying those calls to their linemates and/or quarterback. In Lane Kiffin’s Pro-Style offense, Kelly also had to snap passes in both the shotgun and with the quarterback under center, something that is increasingly rare at the college level.

Overall – 3.6/5

Kelly is the best Center is the 2016 draft class, but his value largely depends on the specific team drafting. He could easy be considered a decade-long starter for a zone blocking scheme offense because he checks off many of the required traits needed to excel in that system as he did for the Crimson Tide. On the other hand, a predominately power-based team might not even value Kelly in the top 100 picks because he struggles to anchor the most powerful defensive tackles at the point of attack.

If drafted by the Packers:

While the Packers are most likely set at Center for the foreseeable future with Corey Linsley manning the position, Kelly would probably be an upgrade from Linsley. The bigger issue would be integrating an entirely new center for Aaron Rodgers as well as the Packers likely having bigger needs where Kelly is likely to be selected (somewhere in the top 50 to 75 picks). With Linsley still having 2 seasons making less than a million dollars, it would be a stretch that, with the Packers needs in the front 7,  Kelly would be the most logical player to pick anywhere in the draft. There is a possibility that the Packers could entertain drafting Kelly with the plan to eventually move Linsley to guard since both T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton are free agents after the 2016 season. But even that seems rather remote. Kelly will be a good player for a team that utilizes the zone blocking scheme like the Texans or Broncos, but the Packers are just not that team. 


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