For the second consecutive year, the Vols have had a running back taken in the NFL Draft. This year, it was John Kelly.
The Los Angeles Rams selected Kelly with the 176th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Kelly was taken by the Rams in the sixth round. He became just the third Tennessee player to be taken by the Rams over the last two decades. Jonathan Wade was drafted by the Rams with the 84th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and Leonard Little was taken with the 65th overall pick in the 1998 draft. He becomes the sixth Vol player to be taken by the Rams since 1970.
Kelly is the second Tennessee running back to be selected in the NFL Draft the last two years. Alvin Kamara was taken with the 67th overall pick in the third round by the New Orleans Saints in last year’s draft.
As a sophomore, Kelly burst onto the scene with Tennessee during a turbulent period for the Vols. He played a supporting role in the Vols’ game against Texas A&M as Jalen Hurd sat with injury and Kamara started, and he played the the second half as the Vols’ lone running back in their game against South Carolina. He then earned his first career start against Tennessee Tech the following week.
Last season, Kelly was Tennessee’s starter at running back and got off to a hot start. He had 450 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the Vols’ first four games of the season, and he added 182 receiving yards on 18 catches in those games as well.
But then Tennessee’s season began to go downhill, and Kelly’s did too.
Kelly would get just 328 rushing yards, 117 receiving yards, and three overall touchdowns in the Vols’ final eight games. He missed one of those games due to a one-game suspension he received after marijuana-related charges in late October.
Tennessee’s offensive line suffered a large amount of attrition, and the Vols’ offense overall had several key injuries last year. That combined with poor offensive play-calling derailed what could’ve been a phenomenal season for Kelly. Even with that, he led the Vols with 778 rushing yards and nine scores while adding 299 receiving yards on 37 catches.
During his Vol career, Kelly ran for 1,573 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on 327 carries. He had 43 catches for 350 yards as well.
Kelly joins Rashaan Gaulden as Vols taken in the 2018 NFL Draft so far. Gaulden was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the 85th overall pick in the third round of this year’s draft.
The 2018 NFL Draft is still ongoing, and there are still several Vols who are hoping to hear their names get called this Saturday.