2012 NFL Draft Profile: Dennis Kelly

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(Be sure to follow Dennis Kelly on Twitter at @DennisKelly68)

Ah, the 2012 NFL Draft is finally upon us. This weekend, the dreams of many great football talents across the country will be fully realized. Entire lives devoted to hard work have culminated to this very event. Fans will cheer, leprechauns will frolic ... you know what? Screw it. I have mixed feelings on the Draft, too.

Like TMill, I also despise the buildup to the NFL Draft. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay complete new mocks just about every other day in attempts to break down the process of this event so much that it has long past being scientific.

And then, there are amateurs who mock the Draft and make predictions like a five-year-old knows which color crayon to choose from the Crayola 96 pack.

Each year, by the time Draft Day hits and I have had a few, long months to digest these behaviors and practices, I tend to spit up blood and bark at my fellow tenants like a rabid dog. But I will say, what I like about the Draft is what it represents: the official start of the new NFL season.

Just think! Once this partially civilized and glorious event is finally beyond us, we NFL fans can rejoice and turn our focus to the one thing ahead that truly matters--FOOTBALL GAMES!

So, in an attempt to prevent myself from biting my neighbors' kneecaps and to continue TMill's quest to profile all of this year's potential Purdue draftees, I will be posting my interesting interpretations of some former Boilers' draft hopes.

Stay tuned for more Purdue NFL Draft Profiles coming either later today or early tomorrow. And without further ado, I present to you--the man; the myth; the giant, raging sea monster--Dennis Kelly.

The Jolly Gold Giant

Kelly, the 6'8" Senior Left Tackle for the Boilermakers, was a crucial part of Purdue's offensive success over the past few years. Since stepping in as the starting Left Tackle in his sophomore year (2009), Dennis has been a reliable protector of the quarterbacks' blind side. In the past three seasons, he has appeared and started in all 37 of Purdue's football games--including the Little Caesar's Bowl last season--and served as a team captain in his Senior campaign.

In that time span, big Number 68 has been an intimidating, durable force at the left end of the offensive line. Kelly enters professional football with no major or lingering injuries and has been praised by scouts for his toughness and aggressiveness. However, many who evaluated him during his time at Purdue once saw glaring flaws in his game.

In his college days, Dennis played at the lean weight of about 305 pounds. Now, I know what you're thinking--"Lean?! The guy is a monster!" But, at a tree-esque 80 inches tall, Kelly once had evaluators skeptical about his true size and strength while playing at just about 300. Many draft experts also thought he was too slow and his techniques were too sloppy. Because of these criticisms, Kelly's draft stock initially suffered and he was not invited to the NFL Rookie Combine in February.

But, then came Purdue's Pro Day on March 9th of this year. Dennis came into Mollenkopf at a bulky 321 pounds. And his workout numbers ended up being very impressive. He bench pressed 225 pounds an amazing 30 times (better than many of the Offensive Tackles that were invited to the Combine) and wound up posting a decent 40 time of 5.33.

His excellent Pro Day workout managed to silence many of his critics, and Kelly has since been storming up draft boards like a gangbuster. For those interested, here is the YouTube video of his Pro Day session:

In the weeks following Dennis' Pro Day workout, some NFL scouts and draft experts managed to re-evaluate him and had many great things to say. Some of the praise that Kelly is receiving from the likes of Bleacher Report, Pro Football Weekly and DetroitLions.com includes this list of reported strengths I have assembled:

  • Tall, lean and strong
  • Proven leader
  • Tough and durable
  • Intelligent
  • Aggressive through the whistle
  • Quick, explosive hands
  • Great work ethic
  • May still be growing into (MONSTROUS) frame
While analysts still have some concerns about Kelly's speed, footwork and lateral quickness, it appears the big man should be very pleased with where he gets drafted this weekend.

Draft Prospects:

Kelly was initially projected to be a late-round pick due to his lean size. As explained earlier, most draft analysts and NFL scouts doubted his true size or strength, and therefore many saw him going in the 7th round or undrafted. But, after putting on that extra muscle and having such a strong Pro Day, Kelly has turned a lot of heads around the league. And as such, he is quickly rising up draft boards. The giant still shouldn't hear his name called until Saturday, but he is now projected to be a possible mid-round sleeper and could be selected as high as the early 5th round.

Many teams have taken an interest in Kelly's size and skill set. The Lions invited him for a private workout and have expressed a ton of interest in drafting him. Other teams that have shown an interest in Dennis and invited him to work out include Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

The team that ends up drafting Kelly will look to add depth, competition or youth to a porous or aging Left Tackle position. Nevertheless, Dennis will more than likely have to wait to see action in the league. Barring any major injuries that would force him into accruing some playing time, he should spend his rookie season for his new team as a reserve on the O-Line.

Keep in mind that the big man is still a very raw product. However, Kelly is very talented and has the size and skill set to be successful in the NFL. If he can improve his game at the next level, he could certainly become a starter and a great Left Tackle in a few years time.

My prediction:

I know what I said about draft mocks earlier, but ... you know what? Screw that, too! I like reading mocks sometimes! Also, in an attempt to prove my own psychic abilities, I give you my prediction on where Dennis Kelly will land this weekend:

Detroit Lions, Round 5, 158th Overall

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The Lions don't have a 6th round pick this season after forfeiting it due to tampering charges involving the Chiefs. This is unfortunate for Detroit, who have expressed great interest in Kelly, because I think they would most likely attempt to select him in the 6th.

However, the Lions will not wait to draft Kelly in the 7th round, as other interested teams may snatch him up by then. Therefore, I think the Lions will use their 5th round pick on Number 68 Dennis "Godzilla" Kelly. According to recent reports, selecting him here will not be a stretch by any means. Also, Detroit seems to be the most interested team in drafting him to potentially replace the aging Jeff Backus in a few years.

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