Being the Beta Wolf can be dope. You get all the perks of being a top dog, but none of the expectations. Just ask Christian Kirk. We all knew he wasn’t made to be the lead WR in an offensive scheme… But as a number 2? He has started to and will continue to THRIVE!
In his sophomore outing, Kirk posted 68 receptions for 709 yards and 3 TDs. A modest year, especially when you factor in that his 68 receptions came off of 108 targets… But of those 40 incomplete passes, only 4 were drops according to pro-football-reference.com. An equally impressively low 3.7% Drop Rate.
What does that number tell us?
It first tells us that Kirk has the hands but that he’s only coming down with 63% of the balls passing his way… So if his hands are there, then why aren’t the balls being caught?
It probably has a lot to do with his rookie QBs completion rates, which didn’t pass the top 10 in any category outside of deep ball completions. Now, this isn’t to say that Murray isn’t a stud. He’s just a rookie with a lot of growth ahead of him.
Contrary to Larry Fitzgerald being perceived as the #1 on the field, Kirk was the recipient of the #1 cornerback’s coverage. He faced off against Jalen Ramsey, Shaquill Griffin, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden, and Denzel Ward throughout the season. With a murderers’ row of opposition like that, it’s bound to be a tough year…
ALSO, Kirk saw a lower-than-hoped-for number of receptions from the slot, which is where I believe he is best suited. According to playerprofiler.com, he totaled 32.5% of his snaps from there while his teammate, Larry Fitzgerald, racked up an eye-popping 78.6%. Why is that important? Because slot snaps are premium snaps.
So that’s a lot of cons… Where are the pros?
THEY’RE RIGHT HERE!
What’s to come in 2020
We talked about Kirk’s modest production in 2019, but it was still a noted improvement from his rookie outing. Per pro-football-reference.com Kirk saw a target increase from 68 (2018) to 108 (2019) while maintaining his 63% catch rate across both years AND reducing his drop rate from 5.9% (2018) to 3.7% (2019). He was able to accomplish all this while seeing a drastic increase in the difficulty of coverage.
His QB play? It should be dramatically better. Murray will have an additional year in the league to understand the pace of play and build a rapport with his teammates. In theory, those errant 40 balls that weren’t caught by Kirk in 2019 should begin to dwindle.
His slot snaps? While they were still significantly below those of Fitz, they jumped from 21.5% (2018) to 32.5% (2019). An 11% increase! (playerprofiler.com) And like we said… Slot snaps are premium snaps.
And his biggest boon?
An unlikely one.
It’s the addition of DeAndre Hopkins.
Hop’s addition takes away so many of the negatives that Kirk saw in 2019. Hopkins will draw the elite coverage relegating inferior defenders to cover Kirk. Hopkins will also take over the perimeter WR role after seeing a mere 15.1% of his snaps from the slot on average over the last four seasons (playerprofiler.com). This, accompanied by Fitz’s advanced age (37 years old come season start), should drastically increase Kirk’s slot shares.
And finally… It’s Kirk’s 3rd season in the NFL. We all know that the 3rd season is the notorious breakout year for pro wide receivers. They come into their own both in their skills and in their physicality. It’s Kirk’s time to shine.
In 2020 I anticipate Kirk to keep a similar number of targets but have a much better catch rate. Expect 67-68%, and with that increase in catch rate, I predict Kirk’s production will increase. Eclipsing 1,000 yards is on the horizon for this budding baller.
End of season numbers?
Calling my shot at 75/1030/5.
Kirk is one of the most tempting trade targets on the market today. Buy him as a low-end WR3 today and watch him blossom into a WR2 at year’s end. A late ’21 1st (8-12) should get it done. But as always, haggle, haggle, haggle. The life of the Beta Wolf will treat him well, so don’t miss out.
Find me on Twitter @TripleDFFP
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