Detroit Lions 2018 NFL Draft Profile: Running Back John Kelly

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 04: John Kelly /

Unknown to many, John Kelly is a running back the Detroit Lions could target. Expect his name to circulate as the draft draws closer.

Most NFL fans didn’t predict the New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara would explode on the scene like he did. Another former Tennessee Volunteer who could have similar success is John Kelly. The Detroit Lions would be wise to keep him on their radar.

Only a junior, Kelly decided to leave Knoxville a year early. Standing at 5-9 and weighing 205, the 21 year-old sounds like another Ameer Abdullah. Once you turn on the tape, you’ll see he’s much different.

The best way to describe his running style is authoritative. Kelly is extremely violent and incredibly hard to bring down.

His agility makes him look very slippery in the open field. Quickness, vision and burst are also easy to notice once you flip on his tape.

In 2015, Kelly immediately contributed as a true freshman for the Volunteers with 165 yards and a touchdown. From 2016-2017 he lead the team in rushing with 630 (5 TD) and 778 (9 TD). You heard that correctly, even more yards than Kamara had in 2016.

Kelly got a chance to show off his natural pass catching/route running ability this season with 37 catches and 299 yards. Only six catches and 51 yards came in year two and zero catches in his first season for the Vols.

Pass protection he holds up like you would imagine most backs his size, so-so. His ball security isn’t bad but could definitely improve.

What might be most disappointing is his lack of breakaway speed. Sure he can get from first to fourth gear in a blink of an eye, but he struggles to reach that fifth gear and pull away from defenders.

Kamara fell to the third round in 2017 and blew up as a rookie. Given Kelly’s success, a third-fifth round grade is a fair assessment.

As a Pro Bowler and projected Offensive Rookie of the Year, Kamara flourished. Kelly can too.

Granted, the Saints offensive line and coaching is superior to the Lions, but Kelly has the tools and skill sets to play the running back position with much productivity.

By some odd circumstance(s), if the Lions find themselves waiting til the middle rounds to snag a running back, Kelly offers a ton of value. The kid played at Oak Park High School and is born in Detroit to make things a little more interesting.

I don’t see the Lions waiting past the second round to draft a running back, but if they sign one via free agency, then an additional one taken later in the draft. Detroit could double dip but it’s more likely if they do add two running backs in the offseason, one from each the draft and free agency makes sense.

Next: 5 Senior Bowl standouts the Lions could target

Wherever Kelly ends up, he has the potential to unleash hell on opposing defenses. The Vols didn’t do much to help him either. If the team around him helps out, don’t be surprised if he shatters expectations like Kamara did.