Christian Kirk has been a frequently talked about player this offseason, with a lot of mixed views and opinions about him. The concern with Kirk is that he was inefficient last season and underperformed with the volume he had, and this is why a lot of people are down on him moving forward, especially with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. However, I believe the addition of Hopkins is going to be a benefit to Kirk, he should see an increase in efficiency and should be well on his way to a breakout season.
Reasons for an increase in efficiency:
Since the day the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins, people have started to panic and fade Christian Kirk, believing that he would take away from Kirk and ultimately hurt his production and fantasy value, but there are multiple reasons to why I believe this to be the opposite outcome. Christian Kirk isn't an alpha receiver, but last year he was required to be the alpha receiver for his team. He more often than not was shadowed by the opposing teams best corners, facing off against, Shaquill Griffin, Richard Sherman (twice), Jalen Ramsey, Joe Haden, and Denzel Ward just for examples. No longer will Kirk be required to fill the alpha role that he had to last year, that job will now be on Hopkins, and since he will be facing lesser competition at defensive back, it is fair to assume his efficiency and production will only go up, thanks to better matchups.
The Cardinal's offense as a whole struggled in passing efficiency last season, as they ranked 22nd in the league in passing efficiency. Not only did they have a rookie quarterback under center, but they had a rookie NFL head coach as well. Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury were anything but bad, but in year two together it's safe to expect the Cardinal's offense to take a step forward, especially in the efficiency department. If the Arizona offense does make the step forward in 2020 as most people expect, its also safe to believe that Christian Kirk will benefit from this, in both terms of production and efficiency as well. It is also important to note that in week 4 last year, Christian Kirk had a high ankle sprain and missed 3 weeks while being on the injury report for 5 weeks. The typical recovery time for someone to be back to 100% after a high ankle sprain is 6 weeks, while the injury issues can be ongoing for an athlete. Ankle and hamstring injuries can greatly affect a receiver's abilities and a healthy Kirk in 2020, will be able to outperform an injured 2019 Kirk.
Projections and outlook:
At Texas A&M, Christian Kirk played almost strictly out of the slot, but so far in his NFL career, he has only played in the slot 32.5% and 21.5% of the time. He is a natural slot receiver given his size and usage history throughout college. 2020 will likely be Larry Fitzgerald's last year in the NFL, as for the last few years he's been “very close to retiring.” Reports from last year were that Kingbury "begged" Fitzgerald to play for another year and offered him the current 1 year 11 million dollar contract he's currently on. Although Fitgerald is here for the 2020 season when he retires Christian Kirk is going to be able to move back to his natural role in the slot, as Fitzgerald played from the slot 78.6% of the time in 2019. It may be another year before we see Kirk's breakout year, once he's able to move to the slot full time, but he certainly still has the ability and potential to breakout in 2020.
Kirk's yards per reception fell from 13.7 in 2018 to 10.4 in 2019, well below the league average. This was ranked 99th out of 100 for players who were on pace for at least 30 receptions, while in 2018 he ranked 35th out of 100 players. If at the minimum, Kirk can fall back to the league average for yards per reception of 13.0 in 2020, my projected stat line for Kirk is 110 targets, 75 receptions, 975 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns, 15 carries for 135 yards, for 216 fantasy points in PPR format. His ceiling can be even higher, depending on how big of a leap the Arizona offense takes in 2020. My projections for Kirk well exceed his current value and ADP, as he is going outside of the top 100 in redraft leagues and outside the top 80 in dynasty leagues. I love Kirk's outlook for the future, especially with the likely departure of Fitzgerald after this season. His ceiling will be even higher without Fitzgerald receiving targets and playing out of the slot.
On this play, Kirk shows great examples of catching highpoint and body control. He goes up high with his hands to the ball instead of letting the ball float longer in the air, this is something you love to see with receivers. He also does a great job of being able to rotate his body in the air, so he can come down get more yards after the catch.
The ball was very under thrown by Kyler Murray on this play, but Kirk does an excellent job adjusting to the ball, by slowing down and coming back to it to make the deep catch. This was possibly a touchdown if Kyler made a better throw here.
Versatility. Kingsbury loves to design plays up specifically for Kirk, from run plays to screens, to reverses. If you like the bonus rushing upside that Robert Woods gives in fantasy football, you should like Christian Kirk as well.
This was Kirk's bread and butter in 2019, Arizona's offensive line was very bad last year and Kingsbury knew this. He called plays to get the ball out of Murray's hands quickly. The offensive line play started to improve down the stretch, hopefully, this continues to be the case so Kliff can exploit Kirk's great route running with deeper routes.
Kirk gets amazing separation here. The defensive back has to respect Kirk's speed, although he isn't Tyreek Hill fast, he is quick. Kirk sells the deep route to DB and has to turn his hips, Kirk then uses his ability to cut back on a dime to create separation for the long gain.
Kirk demonstrates his contested catch ability here on this play, as the DB gets away with what likely should have been pass interference. He doesn't end up in many contested catch situations, but he has the ability to make these kinds of catches when he needs to.
He receives designed run plays and screens already but returns punts as well. He was used as a return man in college and was good at it. Kirk may have a smaller frame, but he is versatile and athletic. I love a player who can score me fantasy points in more than one way.
It's clear Kliff Kingsbury believes in Kirk as a playmaker for his offense. He draws up this play specifically for Kirk and he turns it into a big gain and near touchdown.
Christian Kirk is just a guy who's pretty good at football. He was inefficient last year in an inefficient passing offense, with a rookie quarterback and rookie NFL head coach. Moving forward his outlook is only getting better, and he is being undervalued and under drafted, especially in dynasty leagues.