Seahawks NFL Draft Profile: Joshua Kelley

Nick Lee

Over the course of the next several weeks, the Seahawks and 31 other teams will be evaluating the latest crop of incoming talent in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Up next in our prospect profiles series, the Seahawks have two talented running backs already but health concerns could make Seattle look to the draft for reinforcements at the position. UCLA's Joshua Kelley fits the mold the Seahawks like in a running back.

Strengths

Kelley tested well in the NFL combine, posting the best 3-cone drill time among running backs with a 6.95 mark. He displays good lateral quickness as well as vertical speed, with a 4.49 40-yard dash time, seventh among running backs.

At UCLA, the Lancaster, CA native notched back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and finished with 2,303 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns in two seasons, totaling over 2,500 yards from scrimmage. He earned Second-Team All-Pac 12 honors as a senior.

At 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds, Kelley's physique invites a physical style of running, bruising defenders who attempt to bring him down. He does his best work between the tackles, which Seattle prefers in a running back. His strong lower body and wide frame make him a load to bring down and he has a tendency to fall forward more times than not.

A former walk-on, Kelley is a high-effort back who can wear down a defense throughout the game and has the build to shoulder a heavy workload. Against USC late in the 2018 season, he toted the ball 40 times for 289 yards and two scores in the upset win over the Trojans. 

Weaknesses 

Schematically, UCLA ran simple run concepts in Chip Kelly's offensive scheme and Kelley would have a steep learning curve if he is selected by Seattle and joins their fierce running attack. Add in questions about his vision reading blocking schemes and it's worth wondering how much success he'll find at the next level.

While possessing excellent athletic traits, the Bruins rarely used Kelley in the passing game, as he totaled just 264 receiving yards in two seasons in Westwood. He has decent hands, but doesn't offer much as a route runner out of the backfield.

Although he tested well in the combine, Kelley's film shows a lack of an extra gear to burn past defenders and shake loose downfield. Sometimes, his "football speed" seems slower than his speed in practice or at a combine and he isn't a back who is going to consistently evade tacklers in space.

In regards to being a third down back, Kelley has been hit and miss in pass protection but improved over his time with the Bruins. He will need to continue working on that aspect of his game to see the field consistently in the NFL.

Where He Fits in Seattle

The Seahawks boast one of the better running back duos in football when Chris Carson and former first round pick Rashaad Penny are healthy. However, neither of them finished the 2019 season and have a long road to recovery for the start of the 2020 campaign.

There is much doubt that Penny will be ready for Week 1 after suffering a torn ACL late last year, as those injuries can take up to 12 months to fully heal. 

The Seahawks want depth at running back and Kelley certainly offers that as a possible day three selection. He may never become an every-down back in the NFL given his limited skill set but he can become a valuable change-of-pace weapon behind Carson and Penny when they are both healthy.

As a capable short-yardage back, Kelly and Travis Homer would give Seattle a nice one-two insurance policy and he could play his way into a larger role in 2021.

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