As we near the NFL Draft, we’re going to speculate on some best-case landing spots that have the potential to shake up dynasty drafts.
To be fair, a good landing spot doesn’t always equate to the player becoming a home-run pick, but a healthy dose of potential opportunity helps. And what is the offseason for, if not dreaming of overly optimistic scenarios?
With that in mind, I offer you Christian Kirk to the Arizona Cardinals.
What if Christian Kirk Went to the Cardinals?
Gone from the desert are John Brown and Jaron Brown, who combined for 124 targets 1,896 air yards in 2017. According to the 2018 Air Yards Opportunity Scores, that leaves the Cardinals with the second-most free opportunity in the NFL behind the Patriots.
Kirk broke out as a true freshman at 18, accounting for 37 percent of Texas A&M’s passing yards. His dominance dipped in subsequent years — a 28 percent market share in his sophomore season and 21.8 percent in his final year. He was also a special-teams maven, scoring a school record seven return TDs, and ability on special teams translates to a better chance at NFL success.
He’ll play as a 21-year-old rookie, which is significant. Blair Andrews has been doing stellar work pinning down exactly how much draft age matters. With WRs, it’s particularly important. Regardless of any other factor, a WR who plays in the NFL at 21 records a WR2 season or better more than 40 percent of the time.
In Arizona, Kirk won’t be used as a downfield threat like John and Jaron Brown were. He’s a powerfully built WR who can play both outside and in the slot, but he does most of his damage in the middle of the field, relying on his explosiveness to make plays after the catch. That sets up well for new quarterback Sam Bradford, who doesn’t have the big arm that Carson Palmer did.
Bradford isn’t exactly a surgeon in the middle of the field, but it’s where he’s made a living. About 85 percent of his career attempts – 2,417 of 2,854 – have travelled less than 15 yards downfield.
As a quick aside, it’s fair to ask why Bradford hasn’t thrown deep more in his career, as he’s been excellent over a reasonably sized sample.
Regardless, the Bruce Arians offense, which thrived on downfield shots, is gone. Mike McCoy steps in with a reputation as an offensive coordinator who adapts to the talent around him. While Larry Fitzgerald can do it all and play anywhere on the field, having someone else to steal away some defensive attention would be a huge benefit to the Cardinals.
From Kirk’s perspective, it sure wouldn’t hurt to learn from one of the all-time greats, either.
The Cardinals have shown interest in Kirk in pre-draft visits, and since he grew up in the Phoenix area, the feeling is more than mutual.
“I actually had a private visit with them already, got to sit down with the GM, wide receiver coach, the offensive coordinator, have dinner and what not, and I’d definitely really liked their staff and what they have going on there. It would definitely be surreal if I could go and play there.” – Christian Kirk
The Cardinals hold the 15th and 47th picks in the draft. The 15th overall slot seems too high to draft Kirk, and he’s unlikely to last until the 47th, although it’s not out of the question. Given their need at WR, perhaps we see Arizona trade back in the first round, or trade up in the second, to target one.
The 21-year old appears quite capable of filling that need, and Arizona presents a perfect opportunity for Kirk — and his dynasty value — to thrive.