In this series of articles, our resident tape wizard Greg Cosell will take an in-depth look at some of the more interesting fantasy players for the 2020 NFL season. It’s a peek behind the curtain of the film room, as these are Greg’s raw, unfiltered notes he takes as he watches a player.
With a new offense and a supremely talented rookie QB, Cardinals WR Christian Kirk was a very popular breakout pick in 2019. While he flashed in his second season, nagging injuries robbed him of action for the second straight year — Kirk has missed seven games in two seasons.
Now, he’s the clear #2 to DeAndre Hopkins for the Cardinals, who are hoping to take a big step forward in Year Two for QB Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury. If Kirk can stay on the field, what does he bring to the table?
What immediately stood out was Kirk’s natural quickness, both as a route runner and run-after-catch. Kirk is more quick than straight-line fast and explosive.
Kirk showed excellent short-area quickness as a route runner. He’s effective in the slot running choice routes, option routes, and pivot routes.
Kirk flashed the understanding of how to use his vertical stem to attack the leverage of corners and create separation at the top of his route stem.
Kirk is effective in the WR screen game with his plus run-after-catch ability. Given this, he can also be effective on jet sweeps with his burst and speed to the perimeter.
When aligned as an X receiver, Kirk had clear limitations with his size. He was not the kind of receiver who was going to make contested 50/50 catches.
Overall, Kirk showed excellent quickness as a route runner with the ability to work effectively from the slot. He also showed enough speed on the outside to, at times, get on top of corners.
Kirk fits the profile of an NFL slot receiver with his size and overall traits, and that would likely be his predominant position in a more conventional NFL offense.
My sense is Kirk has the traits to be a quality WR who is location-versatile within the Cardinals’ offense. As Kingsbury grows as a coach and gains more experience, and Murray theoretically improves, I believe Kirk will become more of a factor in the passing game.
- Kirk stats: 68/709/3 (10.4 YPR, 108 targets)
- Kirk lined up in multiple positions in the Cards’ shotgun spread offense: he aligned in different splits both outside and in the slot, including inside slot to trips in 3x1 sets (a predominant location for Kirk).
- In 2x2 sets out of 10 personnel, Kirk almost always aligned in the slot – Larry Fitzgerald was the other slot to the opposite side.
- There were snaps on which Kirk was the boundary X in both 2x1 and 3x1 sets – he was alignment versatile in Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense.
- Kirk played significant snaps outside, especially as the Cards moved to more 11 personnel groupings later in the season – over the last half of the season, Kirk consistently lined up on the outside.
- Kirk was also used as a movement receiver with multiple motion concepts, including jet sweep and orbit reverse.
- One route Kirk ran from the inside slot to trips was the deep sail route. It is the old “Y-Sail” concept that has always been part of the Air Raid offense. He ran this on his 34-yard reception against the Ravens.
- There were concepts in which the Cards got the ball to Kirk in space to take advantage of his run-after-catch ability. Innovative screen concepts were one way to do this.
- Kirk ran a lot of quick-game sit routes — these are easy receptions, but for minimal yards with no run-after-catch.
- Kirk’s 33-yard TD against the Buccaneers came on a straight go route. The Bucs were in Cover 6 with CB Sean Murphy-Bunting in quarters. Murphy-Bunting had his eyes inside and did not react quickly enough to Kirk’s go route – it was more of a poor play by a rookie corner than an example of Kirk’s speed.
- With Hopkins now in Arizona, and likely the boundary X receiver, in most formations I would expect Kirk to be a movement Z and slot receiver.