Christian Kirk is one of the NFL Draft’s most highly regarded receiver prospects.
The Texas A&M product profiles to be an effective slot receiver who can also contribute on special teams as a return specialist. At 5-11 and 200 pounds, Kirk has a running back’s build that suggests he could be durable enough to handle a 16-game season and posted some eye-popping stats at college.
However, there seems to be a variance of opinions regarding where Kirk will land in April’s draft.
For example, Kirk was surprisingly given a fourth-round projection on his NFL Draft profile – which you can read in full right here – with this snippet underscoring the rest:
“Kirk is a well-built, mentally tough slot target whose game is built around pace more than explosiveness. His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath. Kirk’s ability to help in the return game is a plus, but the difference between average and good as a receiver could depend on finding the right fit.”
Could you imagine that “right fit” being the Chicago Bears?
The Bears have two fourth-round picks (101st and 111th overall) and the idea of Kirk, who has been often mocked as a first- or second-round pick, dropping to the fourth round sounds like an absolute delight. It’s not totally inconceivable, either. Because this particular draft class is loaded at receiver (just not at the very top of the draft), a talent like Kirk could unexpectedly fall and become a steal for a forward-thinking team who could best utilize a talented player’s unique skillset.
And as it turns out, Matt Nagy might just be the kind of coach who can maximize Kirk’s strengths. After all, Tyreek Hill grew from being a gadget player and developed into a 1,183-yard receiver in the two years in which Nagy was the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.
Kirk’s professional comparison was Los Angeles Rams receiver/return specialist Pharoh Cooper. The Rams chose Cooper in the fourth round (117th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft and has been primarily used as a receiver during the first two years of his career. Cooper has caught just 25 passes in two years, but was named a first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist in 2017. And while that’s not all bad, it’s not quite where Kirk would want to be.
Not that he was expected to be, but Kirk isn’t a perfect pro prospect and the weaknesses listed by Zierlein in his profile explain why.
“Doesn’t show desired burst into routes to gain separation. Quicker than fast. Has below average catch radius. Generally needs throws near his frame. Hindered by trail coverage down the field due to lack of strength,” Zierlein writes in Kirk’s profile. “Needs to use strength to combat tight coverage underneath rather than allowing defender to crowd him. Benefited from variety of rub routes that got him wide open. Needs to play with better knee bend. Made some questionable decisions to field the ball as a punt returner.”
While a pessimist might be scared off by some of these perceived flaws, an optimist envisions a player with skills who can be molded into something of a productive NFL player.
(For the record, I learn towards the latter)