Bills 2018 draft watch: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M WR
In 2015, Christian Kirk showed up in College Station and carved out a role in a crowded receiving corps, full of NFL talent. By the end of that first year, he was the leading receiver on the team and appeared to be the best NFL prospect of the bunch.
Now, following his junior campaign, Kirk has put himself in the conversation to be the first pass catcher taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has done most of his work out of the slot but has run a more complex route tree than most interior receivers.
Kirk has also proven to be a playmaker in the return game, which gives him added value. That kind of skill set was something that helped vault players like Christian McCaffrey and John Ross into the top 10 in 2017, and should be taken into account when being compared to other receiving prospects.
The first thing I’ve noticed about Kirk is that while being extremely athletic, he has a solid build. Most slot receivers his size weigh 180-190 pounds. Kirk could play at over 200, which should make him more durable over his career. Even with that size, he is still extremely difficult to contain as an athlete.
Kirk not only displays terrific quickness but outstanding discipline with his feet. Athleticism does not always translate to separation when running routes. Separation comes when a good athlete uses disciplined footwork that results in the least amount of steps in and out of the breaks. That involves core strength to stay on balance as well as quick feet.
Because he displays both, Kirk is one of the better route-runners in the country, and that should make for a minimal transition-period when entering the NFL. He will especially be capable of succeeding initially on shorter routes. He is tough to press off the line with his quickness, and Kirk doesn’t fear going over the middle.
I was also surprised at how much faster Kirk was when I scouted him. Initially, I thought he was more quick than fast, but when you watch him get the opportunity to get to full-speed, you see a guy that is running away from everyone. I pegged Jarvis Landry as the player in the NFL his game most accurately approximates, but his speed and quickness are closer to that of Odell Beckham Jr. That kind of speed has made Beckham Jr. more than just a slot receiver in the NFL. He is able to run the full route-tree, and I believe Kirk will be able to do the same. He tracks the deep ball well, and while he may not outjump defenders for 50-50 balls, he will be able to use his speed to separate from them.
One area of concern is that I don’t see him snatch the ball away from his body enough. He doesn’t have a problem with drops, but he seems too comfortable letting the ball into his body. I’d love to see him extend his arms to the ball more often. This will make it more difficult for trailing defenders to get their hands on passes. The bigger catch-radius will also make him more reliable on crucial downs. That will come in handy because Kirk is already a smaller target.
I’d also like to see him more active as a blocker. He has the frame and strength to be effective in this area like Landry or Hines Ward, but he has to commit himself to it. It is a mindset that very few players are able to acquire. It is a confidence and fearlessness that is developed over time, and I believe Kirk is capable of doing it.
Overall, Kirk is a very exciting prospect. He is a playmaker who can be electrifying yet also reliable. Kirk is also a humble and emotionally stable player who doesn’t get distracted with trash talk. He is accountable to his teammates and took more of a leadership role in his third year.
Kirk is in outstanding shape thanks in large part to his work ethic in the weight room, and I would imagine that he displays that kind of discipline in every aspect of the game, including in the film room and on the practice field.
A solid showing in the pre-draft process would likely cement Kirk’s status in the first round, but if his speed is in the low 4.4’s like I think it is, he could find himself being mentioned as the first receiver taken, and that could be in the top half of the first round.
Compares to: Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins)
– Terrific combination of speed and quickness
– Solid build for a player with his athleticism
– Disciplined footwork makes him an outstanding route-runner
– Has plenty of experience playing out of the slot
– Wins off the line against the press
– Added value in return game
– Outstanding character on and off the field
– Needs to extend hands to the ball more often
– Smaller target
– Not going to win many 50-50 balls
– Could be more effective as a blocker