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Chad Kelly gets his chance to impress NFL teams at Ole Miss pro day

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The league kept Kelly away from the combine, but they can’t keep him from working out in Oxford on Monday.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League, guided no doubt by its unwavering adherence to a moral code, decided a little over a month ago that Chad Kelly’s off-field transgressions should prohibit him from joining other top draft prospects at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. No specific explanation ever emerged—even Kelly’s lawyers struggled to get a straight answer from league officials—though vague reports have suggested the former Ole Miss star’s baggage is worse than what’s been publicly reported.

In any event, Kelly gets the chance to show his stuff to NFL scouts on Monday at Ole Miss pro day. It’s not nearly the stage he had hoped for in Indy (and without Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell, it’s a far dimmer stage than last year’s Oxford pro day), but it’s nevertheless a critical opportunity for the quarterback to answer questions about both his off-field missteps and his recovery from the knee injury that ended his senior season.

Superstar surgeon James Andrews cleared Kelly last week to run 35-45 scripted plays on pro day, which will be the first time he’s thrown publicly since tearing his ACL against Georgia Southern in November. Considered to be one of the top QBs in the draft before the injury, Kelly’s currently projected as a seventh-round pick by CBS Sports.

There’s no doubt pro scouts will be paying close attention to his performance. Regardless of Kelly’s mistakes and banged up knee, there’s no denying his arm talent. If his mobility returns to what it was before the ACL tear, he’s potentially one of the steals of the draft. In a league that covets the quarterback position above all else, you can bet someone will be willing to roll the dice.

Of course, Kelly won’t be the only guy working out in Oxford on Monday.

The top prospect on the field will be Evan Engram, who’s expected to hear his name called in the first three rounds after a breakout senior season and an eye-opening combine performance that included the fastest 40-yard dash by a tight end.

"[Engram] answered every concern people had about him,” an anonymous NFL exec told last month. “People questioned his blocking in the fall. Well, he goes to the Senior Bowl and shows tremendous improvement. Any questions about route running and speed were answered [at the combine]. He's quietly put together the best spring of any prospect in the draft."

Then there’s Damore’ea Stringfellow, who, like Kelly, was left off the combine guest list because of his criminal history (the wideout pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault while playing for Washington). String never quite lived up to his potential in Oxford thanks in part to the absurd depth of the receiving depth chart, but at 6’2, 219 pounds with above-average athleticism and solid hands, he has the physical tools to be a productive NFL receiver. If he’s able to post impressive measurables on Monday, he could shoot up draft boards.

The guy you’ll want to root for the hardest is Tony Conner, the former five-star safety who’s seen his draft stock tanked by a knee injury he suffered in September of 2015. Once a candidate to have joined Tunsil, Nkemdiche and Treadwell in last year’s first round, he’s now projected to go undrafted. I spoke with him recently (we’ll publish the full interview later this week) and while he said the knee still isn’t healed, he’s no longer wearing a brace and hopes to convince scouts on Monday that he’s still the playmaker he was before the injury.

The workouts won’t be televised like last year, but you can follow along with @OleMissFB for results beginning at 10 a.m. CT.

Here’s the full list of Ole Miss pro day participants.

  • WR Quincy Adeboyejo
  • OG Justin Bell
  • CB Tony Bridges
  • DE Fadol Brown
  • WR Quintavius Burdette
  • LB Terry Caldwell
  • DB Tony Conner
  • CB Carlos Davis
  • TE Evan Engram
  • LS Will Few
  • DT Issac Gross
  • DT D.J. Jones
  • CB Derrick Jones
  • RB Akeem Judd
  • QB Chad Kelly
  • OT Jeremy Liggins
  • LB Rommel Mageo
  • WR Collins Moore
  • RB Kailo Moore
  • WR Damore'ea Stringfellow
  • LB Temario Strong
  • TE Hunter Thurley
  • DE John Youngblood