By: Mark Leipold
- Stick Routes
- Crossing Routes
- Strong at Catch
- Catching in Traffic
In and Out Routes – Kirk consistently runs excellent stick routes and loses his defender on the turn. He’s not an elite athlete, but changes direction well and stops on a dime when making his cuts. This is a slot route, and he can have success here in the NFL.
Crossing Routes – Kirk operates well in the middle of the field and has a tendency to lose defenders or cross with a nice cushion. He finds himself space in the middle of the field, which is another key area for the slot WR to dominate.
Strong at Catch – Kirk does a nice job of catching with his hands and not with his body, and it allows him to make some tougher catches on poorly-thrown balls. Watch him go down low here and snag the ball off the dirt – it’s all hands on this play.
Catching in Traffic – Kirk isn’t fazed by trailing defenders and is able to make a strong catch when a defender is on his back. Watch him keep the cornerback at bay in the first clip to make the catch, and then make an over-the-shoulder catch with another cornerback in tight coverage.
- Basket Catches
Athleticism – Kirk is not an elite-level athlete, testing below the 50th percentile in most size-adjusted athleticism metrics. He at least has a 68th percentile SPARQ-X score, but his speed, agility, and burst are all unremarkable. See his lack of breakaway speed first, his lack of vertical jump second, and his lack of strength third.
Blocking – This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Kirk is not able to engage on a block for long enough in many cases, which won’t help him earn snaps at the next level.
Anticipation – Kirk has an odd combination of too much anticipation sometimes and not enough anticipation other times. Watch the first clip where he seems to anticipate a big hit coming, and he ends up dropping an easy ball. In the second clip, he does the reverse and fails to anticipate the defender coming – instead of waiting for the ball to come, he could have moved to the ball for the catch and gave himself a chance to escape the tackle rather than being a sitting duck.
Basket Catches – I showed this clip earlier in the profile and praised his ability to make catches in traffic, but the basket catch is not Kirk’s strength, and this gives a great camera angle to see what I mean. While he does secure the catch, look at how long it takes him to control the ball and how unconvincing it is. Kirk is unlikely to carve out a role as a deep-ball threat in the NFL.
Kirk looks to be exactly what I expected – a slot receiver that can win with technique and won’t win with outright athleticism, which essentially amounts to Jarvis Landry lite. Kirk can absolutely help an NFL team if he’s able to get separation at the NFL level, which will be his biggest question. He’ll have to fine-tune his route running to beat NFL defensive backs, but that’s certainly in his range of outcomes. Kirk should be a Day 2 pick in the NFL draft and should compete for snaps in his rookie season.
Kirk still looks like a lesser version of Jarvis Landry when considered from a fantasy perspective, and that’s okay. Jarvis Landry has carried significant fantasy football value and incredibly reliable fantasy output. Even a “lite” version of Jarvis Landry (i.e., Landry if he didn’t get copious targets each year) will have some value, though more as a WR2/WR3 than as a back-end WR1 most likely. I’m not willing to take Kirk as a first-round pick in rookie drafts, and I probably wouldn’t take him until the middle or maybe even the back-end of the second round, so I won’t likely own him on any teams. The fantasy upside just isn’t there in the way it is with a lot of other players, and the safety that Cooper Kupp offered can’t be guaranteed until we know his landing spot. Early playing time will go a long way toward making the case for Kirk as a dynasty asset, but without that, I am not very interested at his current ADP (1.11 per DLF in early March).