#47 Cardinals: WR Christian Kirk

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Overview
A three-year starter at Texas A&M, Kirk has been one of the most valuable players in the SEC since he arrived at College Station, making an impact from the slot and as a returner on special teams – first wideout in Aggies’ history to surpass 4,500 career all-purpose yards. An explosive and controlled athlete, he has a knack for creating separation before and after the catch with his outstanding start/stop quickness and quick-thinking movements.

Although unproven as an outside receiver threat, Kirk thrives in the slot and has room to improve when he adds polish to his route-running. His mature character will be welcomed in a NFL building, carrying himself with positive energy regardless if the cameras are on him. Overall, he needs to hone his finishing skills as a receiver and return man to take his game from good to great, but all the traits are there for Kirk to be an immediate slot weapon and return man.

The term “only” a slot receiver can be viewed as a negative description, but in today’s NFL, most offenses rely on the slot receiver to be an impact weapon. Although he isn’t a seasoned veteran as an outside presence, Kirk has the skill-set to shred the middle of the field. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling among receivers in the 2018 draft class, but has one of the highest floors, putting his value in the top-40 selections. And unlike other well-liked receivers in this draft class, scouts know who Kirk is on and off the field – there shouldn’t be any surprises once he enters the NFL and that reliability is valuable. -- Dane Brugler, 12/17/17

BACKGROUND
A five-star wide receiver recruit out of high school, Christian Kirk earned Player of the Year honors in Arizona after a renowned career at Saguaro, including three state championships, 8,148 all-purpose yards and a state-record 103 touchdowns as a dynamic do-everything weapon. He received offers from Alabama, Arizona State and several other high-profile programs, but in the end, it came down to UCLA or Texas A&M, choosing the Aggies because of the opportunity to play in the SEC.

Kirk made an immediate impact as a true freshman and led the Aggies in receptions (80), receiving yards (1,009), all-purpose yards (1,789), punt return yards (341), kickoff return yards (385) and total touchdowns (eight), earning SEC Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American honors. He became the first player at Texas A&M to post back-to-back 80+ catch seasons, finishing his sophomore year with a career-best 83 receptions for 928 yards and 12 total touchdowns to earn All-SEC honors at three different positions.

Thanks to streaky quarterback play, Kirk saw his production nosedive as a junior, but still led the team in receiving with 58 catches for 730 yards and nine total scores, including his first career kickoff return for a touchdown to earn All-SEC honors at three different positions for the second year in a row.

Analysis
STRENGTHS
Finely-tuned athlete. Controls his throttle in his cuts with NFL-level coordination and ease of movement. Accelerates to his top speed quickly, shifting gears effortlessly in his routes. Ankle flexion and lateral burst to manipulate space, separating from coverage – ran away from Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick on sharp inside-out patterns from the slot.

Natural running instincts to be dangerous any time he touches the ball. Flexible body control, reach and ball skills to snag throws outside his frame. Tracks well over his shoulder. Shorter, but not small, sporting a muscular frame. Professional make-up and not many 21-year old players as mature as him. Goal-oriented mindset and commits the extra time necessary between games. Leadership role grew each season and was one of the faces of the program in 2017. Played in all 39 games of his three-year career and recorded at least two catches in each contest. Impact returner skills, averaging 22.2 yards per punt return with six career touchdowns (36/798/6) – scored a touchdown every 6.0 punt returns in college, setting the school career records for punt return touchdowns in a season (three) and career (six)…averaged 21.2 yards on kickoff returns (49/1,038/1). – Dane Brugler 12/17/2017

WEAKNESSES
Shorter-than-ideal with a maxed-out build. Overpowered by physical defenders and knocked off his route. Above average catch radius, but lacks ideal length to consistently play above the rim or bail out errant throws. Inconsistent results with crowded catch zones. Ball security needs improved. Inexperienced as an outside receiver, working primarily in the slot at Texas A&M. Not an established deep threat and averaged under 13 yards per catch in his career. – Dane Brugler 12/17/2017

COMPARES TO: Tim Brown, Oakland Raiders - Lining up all over the formation, Brown could impact every inch of the field and Kirk has that same impact potential. Brown also averaged 10.2 yards per punt return over his illustrious career and that is an area where Kirk is expected to make an immediate impact.

IN OUR VIEW: Although he needs to hone his finishing skills as a receiver and return man to take his game from good to great, all the traits are there for Kirk to be an immediate slot weapon and return man. He might not have the ceiling of a NFL No. 1 receiver, but he has one of the highest floors in this draft class, which could land him in round one.

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