Christian Kirksey, OLB, Iowa (HT: 6’2” WT: 233 lbs)
Third Round: 71st Pick
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- Plays faster than he times due to instincts.
- Reacts to reads in a hurry and diagnoses plays quickly.
- Decisive linebacker who doesn’t take false steps or delay.
- Discipline to play assignments and contain plays from the outside.
- Has potential as a nickel package linebacker.
- Can backpedal, turn and run, or shuffle with smooth footwork in pass-coverage.
- Always balanced in movements, changes directions smoothly and has fluid hips.
- Aggressive with his hands to jam and reroute tight ends inside of five yards.
- Has enough long speed to be used in man coverage against tight ends.
- Skilled hands with a number of fumble recoveries and interceptions to his name.
- Plays with low pads and leverages run blocks well.
- Possesses short-area quickness and flexibility to dip underneath or around blocks.
- Will drive back blockers on the edge, forcing backs to cut off tackle runs to the inside.
- Sufficient initial quickness to accelerate on the ball in pursuit.
- Precise in pursuit lanes not to overrun plays, always in the right place at the right time.
- Versatile linebacker, was used at the line of scrimmage, over slot receivers and off the ball in most games.
- Three years of starting experience at Iowa.
- On the smaller end of the spectrum for linebackers.
- Not necessarily a game-changing player on a snap-to-snap basis.
- Didn’t make many sacks or other plays in the backfield as a college player.
- Not a prospect with endless athletic potential.
- Average closing speed in the open field.
- Lacks functional strength to play at the line of scrimmage in the NFL.
- Unproductive with his hands as a blitzer, not a natural rusher.
- Inconsistent extending hands to create space and disengage from run blocks.
- Gets hung up battling blockers with his hands too often.
- Often gets caved when he fits the run to inside gaps, little resistance strength.
- Doesn’t always drive and finish as a tackler.
- Mostly wraps and drags down ball-carriers with little power shown.
- Projects as a linebacker in a 4-3 base defense only.
- A 3-star prospect as a recruit in the class of 2010, according to Rivals.
- Two-time team captain.
- 2013 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.
Christian Kirksey does a lot of things well but isn’t necessarily a master of any one of them. Pass coverage is where he earns the highest marks. His footwork, fluidity and instincts enable him to play a variety of coverages to fine effect. He was often floated out over slot receivers for the Hawkeyes. The potential to be a contributor in a team’s nickel package is very appealing, as teams have begun to spend more time in that set than their actual base set.
Lack of athletic traits will surely see Kirksey slide down the draft board, maybe even to the third day. Whichever team drafts him will be getting a versatile, smart and savvy linebacker who will stick on their roster for many years.
Draft Projection: 3rd-4th Round