Monday, May 5, 2014

Scouting The 2014 NFL Draft: Christian Kirksey

It's time for another Hawkeye scouting report. There are three reasons I am doing this.

1. I wasn't a big fan of James Morris, and I would rather end on a positive note for my alma mater.
2. I found two guys that I really liked from Wisconsin, so I felt like I needed at least that many for Iowa.
3. I really like Christian Kirksey.

That third one is the most important, as Kirksey didn't have flashy numbers, but that was mostly due to the role that he played within the Iowa defense. He was three year starter, and he is a guy who did show improvement with experience. Thanks to Draft Breakdown, I was able to rewatch his game against Michigan.

Here is a play that illustrates why his tackling numbers trailed his linebacking counterparts.

He protects the edge and forces the run inside. If he tries to peel off from his block and make a tackle, the runner can bounce outside, but Kirksey maneuvers his blocker wherever he wanted and became twice as wide in blocking the outside options for the runner.

The biggest thing with Kirksey is that he moves very well. James Morris is a solid athlete, but Kirksey is a good athlete. He started as a very small linebacker, and although he is not big, he has put on some weight to alleviate most of those concerns. He is still by no means a big linebacker, but he should be big enough, and his quickness makes up for his lack of size.

With that athleticism, he was always Iowa's best linebacker in coverage which is going to be a key part of his contribution at the next level. Iowa likes to keep their base 4-3 in there unless it is a passing down. This meant that they often had to send Kirksey out wide when teams went three wide on first or second down. Iowa plays a lot of zone coverages, but Kirksey still was able to hold his own when he was asked to play man coverage on a slot receiver.

But even though he is known for his quickness and is not a big linebacker, he can still fill a hole when need be. These are the type of plays that give me a chub.

Michigan's left guard pulls to the outside to kick out Kirksey to open up a hole on the inside, and even with the momentum, the guard doesn't only not push Kirksey out of the way, but Kirksey, giving up about 75 pounds, pushes the lineman back and tackles the running back. When this play started, my computer was on my lap, it is now touching the ceiling. Football porn at its best..

If you are looking for negatives, he is not much of a pass rusher, so sticking him in that role would not be beneficial to the team that drafted him. Most of his sacks are hustle plays as opposed to legitimate pass rushing maneuvers.

With Kirksey, it's almost all positive, but without the standout features that make a first round pick. He's a very good athlete, and he's got solid strength in the hole. He does a good job in coverage, so he can be trusted in man and zone schemes. All of these things are areas he is good, but not great in. Still, a whole lot of good adds up, and for Kirksey, it adds up to a guy who can be counted on as a starter. For a mid-to-late round pick, that's not good, that's great value. 



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