Christian Kirk was a five star prospect from Scottsdale, Arizona. He chose Texas A&M over Auburn, USC, UCLA, and Arizona State. Kirk was a standout player for the Aggies from the moment he touched down in College Station. He led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and all purpose yards as a freshman. Kirk was the consummate professional on and off the field. He was voted as a team captain in 2017. His production on special teams is notable. Kirk averaged 22.0 yards per punt return. He took back six punts for touchdowns and finished with one kick return touchdown during his three year career in College Station.
Creating separation within his routes
The thing that immediately stands out about Kirk are his route running traits. The ability to win off the line of scrimmage is one thing, but Kirk is excellent at changing speeds and breaking his routes when he’s running at full speed.
This was a creative play design by A&M. The outside corner is playing with outside leverage. He matches with Kirk, but Kirk sells his route very well to create separation towards the middle of the field. It looks like Kirk is running a straight go route, but the use of a subtle movement to break inside wins the route for him.
Kirk is the slot receiver to the top of the screen. He runs a whip route, but check out how he’s able to sell the defender on his route. The corner over commits inside, which allows Kirk to drop his body weight and create enough space for the timing route to be executed. There are very few wasted steps, which then allows him to catch the ball and create yards after catch.
The safety matches with Kirk. He’s playing inside leverage, but Kirk’s corner route is executed very well. He doesn’t break within his route, which allows him to reach the corner very fluidly.
Defeating press coverage and ball skills
The concern with Kirk’s projection relate to his strength and frame. By no means is he a physical freak, so it’s imperative for him to win in certain ways. However, I was disappointed with his struggles versus press and at the catch point.
Later in the game against Alabama, Kirk runs another whip route. The defense prepares for it by playing a bit off coverage. As a result, Kirk is not able to gain the separation he did previously. I still would have liked to have seen Kirk do better at the catch point. He’s undoubtedly going to face physical defenders in the league, so he has to get stronger in this area.
My biggest issue with Kirk is how he handles press coverage. He is matched up with consensus top-ten pick Minkah Fitzpatrick on this play. Kirk was primarily lined up in the slot in A&M’s offense. I rarely, if ever, saw him line up outside. Fitzpatrick humiliates Kirk on this route though. Kirk fails to win with his hands or feet at the line, which allows Fitzpatrick to mirror him throughout the duration of the route.
Versatility and special teams
Kirk will be appealing due to his versatility to line up all over the formation and for his work in the return game.
The Aggies found ways to get the ball in Kirk’s hands. He receives the shovel pass and then his explosiveness after the pass takes place.
A&M was creative in how they utilized Kirk. They have him lined up in the backfield to create deception against the defense. He was a tad late to turn his head around, but he gets the job done.
Finally, the value of a strong returner can’t be underestimated. Kirk is special with the ball in his hands, so it’s no surprise that he was one of the best punt and kick returners in the country.
Grade and fit with Carolina
Personally, I’m not as high on Kirk as the national consensus. He reminds me a bit of Tawyan Taylor who went in the third round to the Titans last year. His inability to line up outside or defeat press coverage is concerning. With that said, if he’s available at some point on the second day of the draft he makes sense as a schematic fit in Carolina’s offense. He will likely play the slot role and be asked to run a diverse route tree. I can see Kirk being effective on play action vertical concepts where he’s beating defenses who bite underneath over the top.
2017 vs UCLA
2017 vs Alabama
2017 vs Arkansas
2017 vs Wake Forest
- 95+: HOF talent
- 90-94.99: Future All Pro
- 80-89.99: Future Pro Bowler
- 70-79.99: Day 1 starter
- 60-69.99: Potential year 1 starter/year 2 potential starter
- 55-59.99: Potential to make a roster
- 54.99 lower: Training Camp/depth player
My final grade for Kirk is 66, which amounts to a potential year one starter.
What about you, Panthers fans? Do you think the Panthers should draft Christian Kirk?