Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk had “superstar” written all over him from his first college touch. In his opening game as a Texas A&M Aggie, Kirk took a punt back 79 yards for a touchdown. The freshman from Arizona shined against his hometown Sun Devils with 224 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
This was a game that featured just two of an absurd number of quarterbacks that Kirk would receive play calls from over this three years in College Station, including Kyler Murray.
Kirk was taken 47th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He had an up and down rookie year, but showed true playmaking potential amidst a dumpster fire roster and first year coaching situation. In year two, Kirk could explode under an offensive-minded head coach and familiar starting quarterback. It’s time to stop sleeping on Cardinals sophomore wide receiver Christian Kirk.
Christian Kirk was one of the most electric college football players in the SEC, if not the entire country, during his time in Aggieland. Kirk averaged 952 receiving yards per season. Impressive consistency. Even more so when you understand the lack of continuity at the quarterback position under former head coach Kevin Sumlin. Kirk caught passes from six starting quarterbacks over three seasons. He continually impressed regardless of his surrounding cast.
Do. Not. Kick. To. CHRISTIAN. KIRK. pic.twitter.com/vS3iyCOg1G
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2017
Kirk really made a name for himself in the return game, where he was able to provide huge sparks for a Sumlin team that needed it any time they could get it. Kirk averaged 22 yards per punt return and brought back seven total kicks for touchdowns in his career.
Christian Kirk 79 yards to the HOUSE. pic.twitter.com/jrlx8EZTSK
— TexAgs (@TexAgs) September 6, 2015
Kirk’s production against college football’s top competition in the SEC, amidst the extensive volatile list of quarterbacks, and under pure incompetence at head coach is more than impressive. Will it translate to the professional level in the same manner? Kirk’s rookie year gave us a glimpse of what he’s capable of.
Kirk proved that he could run with NFL defensive backs in his first year as a Cardinal.
Finishing his rookie season with 43 receptions, 590 yards, and three touchdowns in 12 games on the league’s 29th ranked passing offense is nothing to scoff at. With a rookie quarterback in Josh Rosen, and rookie defensive-minded head coach in Steve Wilks, Kirk couldn’t have been expected to produce at a high clip in his first year.
The Cardinals ran the play they used for the game-winning TD in the second quarter, and Josh Rosen missed Christian Kirk open in the back of the end zone. He did not the second time around. (also good call by Byron Leftwichtp go back to it) pic.twitter.com/jXiXo6n8D2
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) October 29, 2018
Heading into his second year, Kirk will see the most favorable situation he’s faced in a long time. The Cardinals decided to flip their rebuild and commit to the new wave of the NFL: an air-raid all-offense philosophy that has proven well for teams such as the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.
Hiring former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury to replace Wilks was the first indicator. Once Kingsbury made it clear he wanted to select Kirk’s former Texas A&M teammate, Kyler Murray, with the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, there was a clear shift in the paradigm of Arizona’s front office philosophy. They want to be fast and they want to score a lot of points.
Christian Kirk is fast, and he can help this team score a lot of points. Barring Kyler Murray becoming a huge bust (which is entirely possible), his chemistry with Kirk should be seamless as he enters his first training camp with the team. If Kirk and Murray can establish a connection, the sophomore receiver could end up benefiting mightily across from future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals don’t have high expectations coming off their worst year in franchise history. There are many question marks to consider when predicting what this team is capable of, but when it comes to the offenses production and the development of Christian Kirk, up seems like the only way to go from here.
Kirk has a real opportunity to explode onto the scene this year, especially in Fantasy Football. He should see a high volume of work as a pass catcher and in the return game. Comfort and trust is key between a wide receiver and a quarterback, and we know that Murray already has an established connection with Kirk. This should lead to more targets and well placed balls if the chemistry is true.
I predict that Kirk finished the year with the following stat line:
84 receptions, 837 yards, seven touchdowns (including one punt return touchdown) in all 16 games.
Kirk has a real opportunity to flourish in a fast paced, high-target volume offense. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.