From now until the 2018 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#3 Christian Kirk /Texas A&M WR – 5’10” 200 lbs.
–Powerful, muscular body
–Catches the ball well in stride
–Adjusts well to the pigskin in the air
–Good lateral agility with bouncy feet
–Red zone threat
–Works well as a kickoff and punt returner
–Dangerous with the ball in open spaces
–His quick feet don’t equal blazing speed (ran a 4.47 40 yard dash)
–Doesn’t create much separation between himself and defenders
–Limited catch radius
–Gets knocked around by defenders
–Limited experience as an outside receiver, mostly played slot
–2017 Offensive Captain as a junior
–2017 First Team All-SEC all purpose and return specialist, Second Team All-SEC wide receiver
–Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona
–Had over 3k all-purpose yards his senior year of high school (almost 1,700 rushing, 1,200 receiving, and return yardage)
–In his college career, Kirk played in all possible 36 games finishing with 22 rushes for 116 rushing yards, caught 209 passes for 2,512 receiving yards with 22 touchdowns, attempting 2 passes and completing no passes, returning 41 kickoffs for 936 yards and 1 touchdown, and returning 34 punts for 796 yards with 6 touchdowns
On a second and 10 play, #3 gets sent in motion, coming up from the bottom of your screen. He gets pitched the ball in stride, starts turning the corner while reading his blockers downfield. Kirk runs a bit high, not sinking his hips, but is still elusive and powerful enough to get the first down. This play demonstrates his versatility, vision, power, and wiggle especially in open space.
Kirk is also a special teams demon. He steps up catching the ball on the two yard line (the returner could have let the ball bounce in the endzone for a touchback as there was clearly enough room). #3 immediately starts accelerating, reading his blockers out in front to figure out which running lanes to exploit. The prospect adjusts his foot speed, then moves the pigskin from his inside arm to his outside one as he swats a defender to the ground. Kirk uses his bouncy feet to allow another defender to fly right by. Sure the young playmaker could have settled for less, but he created a huge opportunity for his offense by starting them off at their 40 yard line.
Lined up to the right of the quarterback in the shotgun formation, #3 attacks the line of scrimmage untouched with a safety hanging six yards deep, bracing to act like a catcher’s mitt. Kirk pulls the DB’s movement by starting off slightly running right, then turns left grabbing the pigskin in front of the defender for the score. The receiver set up his coverage with his quick feet and ability to shield the ball facing tight defense in the red zone.
Out in space, Kirk catches a pop up fly ball from his young quarterback. He tries to spin around to avoid Ronnie Harrison bearing down on him. This does not work as the wideout does not sink his hips, tries to swat the stronger Harrison away, and gets wrapped up like a young calf at the rodeo. Chances are that #3 will not see a pass as poorly thrown at the next level, but the young playmaker will face even better defenders game in and game out. While he showed good concentration catching the pigskin, Kirk might have been better off swatting it away.
Christian Kirk is a talented, shifty slot receiver and all-around returner (seven college special team touchdowns). He appears more quick than fast, doesn’t gain much separation, and has a limited target range from his hips to just above his head. I think he is a talented third NFL receiver with room to grow. Will the Steelers be willing to invest a Day Two pick on him? I’m not quite sure with their needs at safety, then an inside and outside linebacker spot each. If anything, it will be his special teams play that might convince the Steelers to look at him in the second round.
Projection: Day Two
Games Watched: vs. Wake Forest, @ Arkansas, @ UCLA, @ Alabama (2016)