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For some UCLA football players, game tapes may hold the key to their chances of being drafted

UCLA running back Joshua Kelley runs with the ball past Arizona State's Jermayne Lole for short yardage during the first half on Oct. 26, 2019 at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA running back Joshua Kelley runs for short yardage against Arizona State during the first half on Oct. 26, 2019 at the Rose Bowl.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Joshua Kelley ran for more than 100 yards at the Senior Bowl. Darnay Holmes ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the NFL combine. Devin Asiasi bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times at the combine.

For a slew of less-heralded UCLA players hoping to be selected in the NFL draft this month, their fates will largely be a tale of the tape.

Their college tape.

The cancellation of the Bruins’ annual pro day amid the novel coronavirus outbreak has left NFL scouts with little to go on when assessing potential besides what players had already shown in college.

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“A lot of the decisions on players that didn’t go to the combine will be based solely on the film that they put on and we had scouts from every single team in the NFL at practice at the fall,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said on a teleconference Thursday, “so their write-ups on practice and what-not I think is what the NFL teams will rely on for those guys.”

UCLA football coach Chip Kelly says if it’s not safe for fans to attend games because of COVID-19, then it’s not safe for players to participate.

Kelley, Holmes, Asiasi and kicker J.J. Molson all displayed their skills and had their measurements taken at the combine, allowing teams to gauge their potential in person and conduct medical evaluations that can alleviate any concerns about lingering injuries or health issues.

But UCLA teammates Boss Tagaloa, Krys Barnes and Josh Woods head into the draft as bigger unknowns in NFL circles because they did not receive combine invitations or participate in a pro day.

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“I think it hurts those guys a little bit,” Kelly said. “It happened to everybody. Unfortunately, this pandemic hit and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi, center, celebrates his catch for a touchdown during the second half against Colorado at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 2, 2019.
UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi, center, celebrates his catch for a touchdown during the second half against Colorado at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 2, 2019. UCLA won 31-14.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Holmes, projected as a third- to fourth-round pick by draftscout.com, is widely expected to be the first Bruin selected in the draft. Asiasi and Kelley are both projected as likely fourth-round picks, and the other Bruins as probable undrafted free agents.

Kelly said NFL teams are targeting Holmes, who played cornerback at UCLA, as a nickelback and kick returner.

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Kelley pairs vision, speed and skill that allowed him to go from walk-on to featured back with a winning personality that has made him a favorite among fans, teammates and coaches.

Former UCLA tight end Matt Lynch tweeted that he was headed back home to Colorado, where he’ll play for the Buffaloes immediately once sports restart.

“Most people, when they first meet him, they’re like, ‘Is this guy for real?’ ” Kelly said of Kelley’s sunny disposition that includes a constant smile. “And he is. He’s like that every single day. He’s just got a great attitude and you’re excited to be around him.”

Like Holmes, Asiasi left after his junior season, feeling he was ready to prove himself at the next level. Thanks to his combine invitation, Asiasi won’t be a big mystery to NFL executives on draft day.

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“Devin has huge upside as a tight end prospect,” Kelly said. “He can run, he’s big, he’s physical, good offside attributes and speed, what you’re looking for in a tight end.”


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