The Los Angeles Chargers chose UCLA running back Joshua Kelley Saturday with their first selection in the final day of the three-day 2020 NFL draft, then chose Virginia receiver Joe Reed with their second.
“I can’t describe how I feel right now,” Kelley said after being the sixth player drafted in the fourth round and 112th overall choice.
“Just being with my family, playing at UCLA, and then just getting a call from the head coach, that’s special. It’s almost like a dream come true. I get to play locally in a place where I grew up in the area. For me, that’s humbling. It’s humbling for sure. I can’t wait to get started.”
The 5-foot-11-inch, 219-pound Kelley was UCLA’s MVP in both seasons he played for the Bruins. He rushed for 1,243 yards, the 10th highest-total in school history, as a redshirt junior in 2018 and 1,097 yards as a redshirt senior in 2019, the eighth running back in UCLA to record back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
“I think coach (Chip) Kelly’s system definitely prepared me for the league,” Kelley said, referring to the Bruins coach who formerly coached the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. “He definitely brought his philosophies to UCLA, a lot of the same pro-style running schemes. I have a lot of experience running it and I think that it’s something I do really well.”
Kelley said he absolutely needs to improve as a pass protector.
“That’s something I need to be extremely better at, especially if I want to survive and play in this league,” Kelley said. “I also need to work on my route-running.”
Kelley was a second-team All-Pac-12 Conference selection by the league’s coaches in 2019 and a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation’s top walk-on or former walk-on player. He was chosen as the North Running Back Practice Player of the Week for the 2020 Senior Bowl.
Kelley began his college career at UC Davis, rushing for 530 yards in 2015 and 609 yards in 2016.
“I was a two-star (recruit) coming out of high school,” Kelley said. “I didn’t get a lot of national spotlight attention or anything, but I remember UC Davis. They came to me and offered me a full ride. They were my only one, so I was like, ‘I’m going to go here.’
“Being there was great. They had great coaches and great players, too, but for me, I feel like I’ve always had this competitive drive. I felt like I could always compete and play in a Power Five conference. It’s always been a hunger of mine. I really made that decision to better myself after my sophomore year and transfer to UCLA.”
Kelley is a graduate of Eastside High School in Lancaster where he rushed for 1,469 yards and scored 16 touchdowns as a senior in 2014 and was selected as the Golden League Back of the Year.
The Chargers used the fifth pick in the fifth round, the 151st overall selection, to draft Reed, the only player in Football Bowl Subdivision history with more than 2,700 yards in kickoff returns and a kickoff return average of more than 28 yards. The 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound Reed led FBS players in kickoff return average in 2019, averaging 33.2 yards per return.
The Chargers chose Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman with the seventh pick in the sixth round, the 186th overall selection. Gilman was fourth on the Fighting Irish in 2019 with 74 tackles and made 10 tackles against USC in 2018.
The Chargers also have the sixth pick in the seventh round later Saturday.
The Chargers did not have a choice during Friday’s second day of the draft, having traded their second- and third-round picks to the New England Patriots on Thursday for a first-round choice, the 23rd overall selection, which they used to draft Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray.
The Chargers began the draft Thursday by selecting Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the sixth overall choice.
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