Christian Kirk to play key role for Arizona Cardinals


As soon as an NFL team drafts its new franchise quarterback, the number one responsibility of the organization is set by surrounding the young signal caller with talent

In Los Angeles, Les Snead and company provided second year quarterback Jared Goff with a bolstered receiving corps (Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett) and an innovative young head coach in Sean McVay. In Chicago, General Manager Ryan Pace seems to be following suit. I don’t even think I need to mention the comparable strategy of the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

With those teams providing the modern day NFL blueprint for success, it came as no surprise when the Arizona Cardinals selected wide receiver Christian Kirk in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Kirk a three year starter at Texas A&M University, excelled against some of the top talent in the nation, throughout his illustrious career in the SEC. Kirk compiled just under three thousand yards in his career while hauling in an impressive 234 career receptions.

What makes Kirk’s accomplishments even more impressive, is the fact that he was consistently viewed as the team’s number one offensive weapon. Kirk battled constant double teams, defensive play calling designed to nullify his effectiveness, and erratic quarterback play. 

Still, Kirk was a star in College Station. But can he be a star in the NFL?

On one hand, Kirk has traits to be an all-pro caliber receiver. First and foremost Kirk has a great attitude. Throughout the pre-draft process, few players impressed more throughout interviews and team meetings than Kirk.

So what does that mean for the Cardinals? Simply that Kirk may be the perfect pick to take advantage of a more than ideal learning environment. 

Kirk comes home to Arizona, and finds a team with an innovative offensive coordinator, in veteran coach Mike McCoy, and an even more prolific wide receiving mentor to learn from, in Larry Fitzgerald. If Kirk can learn how to dominate under McCoy’s tutelage, much like comparable NFL pro’s Steve Smith, Keenan Allen, and Eddie Royal. He has a tangible shot at filling a substantial role from week one.

After losing wide receiver John Brown in free agency to the Baltimore Ravens, the Cardinals have a clear need in the slot. Look for Kirk to come in and immediately compete for the starting slot role, in McCoy’s offense.

Yet as much as I am excited about Kirk’s potential, his collegiate tape does come with concerns.

Against top level talent, Kirk’s tape just fails to impress as wildly as his performances against lesser foes. Don’t believe me? Watch his tape against Alabama in 2016 and 2017.

Yes, Kirk still filled up stat lines against top SEC defenses, but he fails to make players miss in the open field at the same rate. Not to mention, when facing tight coverage against top competition, Kirk tends to let the ball come all the way into his body rather than catching with his hands extended.

All that said, I still think Kirk will be a day one contributor in this Cardinals offense. McCoy lives to draw up exotic route trees and motions for dynamic playmakers, I doubt Kirk will be an exception.

With Larry Fitzgerald drawing most of the attention, I would not be surprised to see Kirk do a lot of damage in the slot on crossing routes, out routes, and bubble screens. Just don’t be shocked if Kirk struggles with drops early on in his professional career.

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After analyzing Christian Kirk’s collegiate tape, one thing is clear: the Cardinals didn’t select Kirk in the hopes that he can become the next Larry Fitzgerald. Kirk is a different player with a different skill set. But Arizona did find an electrifying return man and dynamic slot receiver suited perfectly for the modern day NFL. If Kirk can develop the way the Cardinals hope, he could become a top weapon for Josh Rosen throughout his career.