In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft (April 26-27), BR.com will offer a look into the top prospects by position. This week, it's wideouts, with Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly next in line.
If the Ravens end up drafting wideout Malcolm Kelly, it's not like he would have a problem making friends in the locker room.
After all, there are five former Oklahoma Sooners currently wearing purple and black, and the Ravens have drafted a team-high six players out of Norman, Okla. One of those selections is on Kelly's speed dial.
As one of the top wide receiver prospects in April's NFL Draft, Kelly is basically a lock for a first-round exit, perhaps around the time when the Ravens called Mark Clayton's name 22nd three years ago.
Clayton, a first-team All-American his junior and senior seasons, left Oklahoma in 2005 as the school leader in receptions (221), yards (3,241) and touchdowns (31). While Kelly's 114 career catches for 2,285 yards and 21 scores may not approach Clayton's numbers (Kelly ranks second in touchdowns and yardage), he is just as highly-regarded.
Because Clayton has been through the grueling draft process before, the Sooner duo speaks often.
"It's at least once a week," Kelly said about his conversations with Clayton. "He tells me that it's like a chess game. Everybody does a lot of practice, just small stuff about your technique you have to work on every day. [Things] you normally wouldn't do in college. You have to make sure you really stay on top of it in the NFL."
By many scouts' estimates, Kelly doesn't have a lot to work on. The big 6-foot-4, 224-pound wideout is known as a physical receiver that excels in the passing game - with great hands and speed - and in the running game through his commitment to blocking.
But even after a stellar three-year collegiate career, many league scouts would like to see more of the 21-year-old. Citing a lingering quadriceps injury that kept him out of last year's Fiesta Bowl, Kelly did not participate in any of the physical drills at the NFL Combine. He was expected to work out at Oklahoma's Pro Day March 11, but he again opted out, postponing his showcase to April 9.
Originally, foregoing the Combine seemed to help Kelly's draft status, as two of his main competitors' status dropped. Michigan's Mario Manningham ran an unexpectedly slow 40-yard dash (4.6 seconds) and Cal's DeSean Jackson was measured at a smallish 5-foot-9, 167 pounds.
Now, there should be even more eyes trained on this rare receiver. The pressure is on, but Kelly hopes that he can rely mainly on his entire body of work.
"You have to have good film, you have to show you can go out and do that all the time," he said. "You have to be a quick learner in camp, because a big part of the game is reacting instead of thinking so much. So, if you can get out there and you're confident in your game, just get out there and be [yourself], you'll learn the game quick, and it'll come a lot easier to you."
Kelly knows he still has a lot to prove, but he's done it before, shining throughout his career in an offense known much more for it's running game - courtesy of current NFL Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson - than airing it out.
Peterson, who rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 14 games last season, is another Sooner that Kelly aspires to succeed, even if his trajectory isn't as steep as Peterson's.
When asked about how he feels he can stack up against his former teammate's rookie performance, Kelly paused and chuckled.
"You're not going to go out there, and the first day you're out there it's just going to come to you," he said with a smile. "Unless you're Adrian Peterson."