Summary: Over Nick Saban's historic run at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has been a factory of NFL talent and has been especially strong at producing linemen for the pros. Kelly was the rock of the Crimson Tide's offensive line across the last three seasons and paved the way for a potent ground game with big plays in the passing game. He is a rock-solid blocker who should have a long, productive NFL career.
Kelly had some big shoes to fill replacing an Alabama legend in Barrett Jones. Not only did Kelly meet those expectations, he proved to be a much better pro prospect than Jones. For three straight seasons, Kelly started for Alabama and was instrumental in the success of other NFL star prospects like Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
Kelly should be a 10-year NFL starter if he stays healthy. He is an intelligent blocker with very good technique. Kelly can win blocks with a variety of ways. He has good hand placement and gets a push in the ground game. Kelly also is quick to the second level and does nice job of moving laterally in zone-blocking plays. Additionally, he is solid in pass protection with the strength to anchor and the quickness to handle speed rushers. Kelly has a ton of experience as a starter in the SEC over the past three seasons with extra games against elite competition in the SEC Championship and college football playoff. He also has been very durable.
Sources say that Kelly is the best center in the 2016 NFL Draft. He smart, tough and reliable, with good size and athletic ability for the position. They feel center is an intangible driven position and that he is very strong in those areas. They also say Kelly isn't the caliber of center prospect as Maurkice and Mike Pouncey. Kelly also isn't the athlete Cam Erving was last year. All three of those players went in the top 20 of their draft classes. Thus, Kelly isn't projected to be a top-20 pick. However, sources from multiple teams say they think Kelly will be one of the 10 best centers in the NFL during his career.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, sources say that they expect Kelly to be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Player Comparison: Nick Mangold. Sources have compared Kelly to Mangold and that is great news for Kelly as Mangold is one of the top centers in the NFL. He has been since being a first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft. Mangold (6-4, 307) and Kelly are virtually identical in size and skill set. In the NFL, Kelly could have a long solid career like Mangold has.
NFL Matches: San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Washington
In the NFC West, San Francisco has a huge hole at center and Kelly could be a quick upgrade if he gets to their second-round pick. The Seahawks traded away Max Unger and their offensive line disappointed last year. Kelly could be a long-term center to work with Russell Wilson.
The Texans could lost starter Ben Jones in free agency. Kelly could also be an upgrade over the pedestrian Jones. Likewise, Stefen Wisniewski has moved on from Jacksonville in free agency. The Jaguars could target Kelly if he gets to their second-round pick.
Cincinnati should upgrade Russell Bodine, but they probably will address a different position in the first round..
The Redskins are another team that could use improved play in the middle of their line. Sources say that Kelly could be in play for their first-round pick depending on how the draft unfolds. Kelly could form a tough interior trio with Spencer Long and Brandon Scherff.