How Christian Kirk Slots into an Offense in Flux - Footballguys

Digging into Christian Kirk's fantasy prospects in 2018. 

THE ALLURE OF THE UNKNOWN

It is difficult as a fantasy football player not to be caught up in the hype of a talented rookie ready to take the league by storm. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound pocket dynamo out of Texas A&M, Christian Kirk, fits that bill to a tee.

Possessing a preternatural penchant for playmaking with the ball in his hands, Kirk looked the part in college operating mostly out of the slot. However, his landing spot in Arizona – where a rookie quarterback waits in the wings, and he has a future Hall of Famer as a mentor – could be both a blessing and a curse. The allure of the unknown is tempting, but how much stock should we invest?

ROOKIE ROAD AHEAD?

The popular wisdom among the fantasy football brain trust, however, says that rookie receivers have a tough time adjusting to the complexity and, moreover, the speed of the NFL game. A glance back through the history books shows us that even some of the best receivers of the modern era have struggled in their maiden campaigns.

Notable receivers in their rookie season - the tough path to production

Player
Receptions
Yards
TDs
ADP
Finish
48
756
4
WR20
WR35
22
283
2
WR53
WR96
45
561
6
WR29
WR45
52
802
2
WR37
WR82
72
1070
6
WR14
WR23

Can Kirk buck the trend of disappointing rookie seasons?

In short, the answer is a resounding yes. If we divorce ourselves from who the Cardinals quarterback will be and focus solely on Kirk’s game, there is plenty of room for optimism. Kirk possesses a quick-twitch ability in the open field that will put even the most experienced defenders on their heels. His ridiculous change-of-direction ability and flat-out speed are evident on kick returns, where he excelled in college.

He not the biggest receiver, but his shifty nature and quick reactions, not to mention his straight-line speed, will turn a lot of dump-offs into big plays and touchdowns. Kirk is a Steve Smith clone in some respects, but even Smith himself would be proud of plays like this one:

BEST WITH BRADFORD OR JOSHIN’ WITH ROSEN?

The right quarterback could unlock the promise in Kirk's game.  The Cardinals have two options, the oft-injured veteran Sam Bradford and the franchise’s future Josh Rosen. Reading the tea leaves of offseason scuttlebutt, it is clear that Kirk and Rosen are already establishing a rapport. Further digging and parsing out the comments of head coach Steve Wilks leads to the inevitable conclusion that it will be Rosen taking snaps in Week One. Kirk has turned heads with plays like these at minicamp. 

As a new era dawns in Arizona, the best chance for Kirk lies with fellow rookie Rosen. The two can grow together, make mistakes together and learn together to form a Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison type bond on the field.

Moments like this one could be commonplace on Sundays:

WHERE DOES HE SLOT IN?

At Texas A&M, Kirk lined up in the slot on more than 90% of his snaps, so it is clear where he is most at home. The question is, will the Cardinals brass opt to deploy him primarily in the slot, or move him around the formation? The complicating factor could be Larry Fitzgerald, who has found a home in the slot over the past few years – and to great effect.

The likely scenario is that Kirk is thrown into the deep end and exposed to a variety of roles on a depth chart that lacks star-power beyond Fitzgerald. Kirk’s high-end athleticism (such as that illustrated in the chart below) could earn him a significant role immediately:

Christian Kirk's 2018 Combine numbers compare favorably to THOSE OF Odell Beckham Jr. and Golden Tate

2018 PROJECTIONS

Projector
Games
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Fumbles
David Dodds
15
1
4
0
48
595
4
0
Bob Henry
16
5
30
0
58
680
4
0
Jason Wood
16
0
0
0
58
700
4
0
 
Maurile Tremblay
16
0
0
0
44
572
3
0

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

Matt Waldman profiles Kirk’s hands on his RSP Boiler Room episode, highlighting some of the possible flaws in Kirk’s game.

Mike Tagliere of FantasyPros suggests avoiding Kirk

"Apparently the Cardinals are dead-set on using Kirk in his rookie year, but the problem is that he's been pretty much a slot-only wide receiver throughout his college career, and Larry Fitzgerald pretty much has that spot locked down. Unless they move Fitzgerald, it'd likely be tough sledding for Kirk on the perimeter, meaning I'd fade him in redraft leagues."

THOUGHTS FROM THE FOOTBALLGUYS MESSAGE BOARD

Pwingles doesn’t rate Kirk’s chances very highly:

“If the old staff was there, I would say he would definitely have little to no impact. He would be the third option in the passing game. In 2016, with a healthy David Johnson, it was Larry Fitzgerald with 100+ catches, Johnson with 80 and three other guys in the 30s. Without Johnson in 2017, those other targets didn’t really go anywhere. With the return of Johnson this year, I assume his ceiling this year as the WR2 is capped, but I like his prospects a lot for Year Two."

Efactor takes a more optimistic slant:

“Kirk is my favorite of the rookie receivers in redraft due to his situation. There’s Fitzgerald, Johnson and then not much else in the passing game, so the opportunity will be there. I just can’t see Chad Williams or Brice Butler beating out Kirk. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished with 800-900 yards and five or six touchdowns if Bradford plays a whole season.”