The idea is that Christian Kirk, as a second-round pick, will be able to step in and make an impact as a receiver right away. Beyond Larry Fitzgerald, there is certainly an opening at the position. There is a lot to sort out, of course — what might the role of J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams be going forward, how much more might tight end Ricky Seals-Jones be used, will running back David Johnson slide right back in as the second-leading pass-catcher like he was in 2016. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is just now building out what he might want to do. That will take some time.
As polished as Kirk might be at this point, coming in and doing big things right away as a rookie receiver can be difficult. You need opportunity as well as skill. You also need to figure out just what the expectations would be for “making an impact.” Last year, Rams third-round pick Cooper Kupp made an impact, even if his numbers wouldn’t necessarily make him an obvious Pro Bowl candidate (62-859-5). Former third-round Cardinals pick John Brown did the same in 2014 (48-696-5). If Kirk could replicate either of those seasons, I’d guess the Cardinals would be pretty happy.
A look at every receiver drafted over the last three years by pick 47 (Kirk’s spot) or earlier finds plenty of lost rookie campaigns. Using Smokey Brown as a potential benchmark, of the 19 wideouts taken at 47 or higher, only three (Sterling Shepard, NYG, 2016; Michael Thomas, New Orleans 2016; Amari Cooper, Oakland, 2015) had as many catches as Brown as a rookie (65, 92, 72, respectively.) Only two, Thomas and Cooper, had as many yards as Brown (1,137 for Thomas, 1,070 for Cooper.) The same trio were the only ones to reach the five touchdowns of Brown (Sterling 8, Thomas 9, Cooper 6).
That’s 16 wide receivers that didn’t do a ton as a rookie (Houston’s Will Fuller did go 47-635-2 in 2016, so he was close). Again, when looking to see what Kirk might be able to have, recent perspective counts.
Tags: Chad Williams, Christian Kirk, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Mike McCoy, Ricky Seals-Jones
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The question was about how he and General Manager Steve Keim felt Saturday, two days later, about the ability to trade up and draft potential quarterback-of-the-future Josh Rosen, and Steve Wilks took the opportunity to flash back to January, when he was first hired.
“When you go back to January 22nd, when I was hired, there were questions,” Wilks said. “Here’s a guy with no head coaching experience, you have no quarterback on the roster, the offensive line has a lot of holes, there are a lot of questions about this team. And I would say this: Sight is totally different than vision. Sometimes you have to see past the difficulties. We had a plan. We had a vision.”
Wilks noted the additions on the offensive line, with Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. He noted signing quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. He reiterated the oft-used “aggressive” phrase the Cardinals have used in relation to the first-round trade and the Rosen pick.
“To be sitting in this situation now, to have what could be a future franchise quarterback for many years, you’ve got a dynamic running back who I consider to be the best in the league in David Johnson, we continue to build that offensive line, dynamic receiver (Christian Kirk) who will learn and grow from one of the best in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, so we got better,” Wilks said. “Going back and looking at it now, we’re in a great situation.”
Whether the draft class pans out is TBD. Keim has been excited about every draft class he’s had on the Saturday of the draft. Then, inevitably, some guys don’t work out. That happen with every team. But Wilks does have a point — the roster, particularly the quarterbacks, looked bleak a few months ago. Suddenly, not so much. That’s not to say Rosen — or Bradford — is a lock to star in Arizona. But they could. And if Kirk becomes the wideout the Cards want and need, if Chris Campbell fleshes out as one of Wilks’ late-round developmental gems in the secondary … yes, there are “ifs.” But the Cards are in a much different spot than they were.
— As for Keim and his Rosen reflection, he admitted “it’s a little bit of a relief” to have that future QB around. Finally.
“But at the same time, (I want) to have a little fun and watch how this thing plays out,” Keim said. “I don’t forget my evaluation on Sam Bradford, and if he can stay healthy, you could be talking about a guy who could potentially be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. I feel that strongly about how he can throw the football.”
— The Cards are in the process of agreeing with undrafted rookies. The official list won’t be out until Monday at the earliest, but I’ll probably retweet some names on Twitter if you want to look there. The official list always ends up a little different — those guys still have to pass physicals, and sometimes, players tweet out they are “signing” with a team even when they are only invited on a tryout basis.
— Last season, then-rookie safety Budda Baker missed all the offseason work other than the rookie minicamp because of an arcane NFL rule that prevented rookies from taking part until after graduation of their school. (The rule was in place to make sure guys could graduate without the pressure of having to miss time, although the reality is guys who are drafted most of the time are ready to go play football anyway.) There were a handful of schools that are on quarter systems and don’t graduate until mid-June. UCLA is one, meaning Rosen normally would have been out like Baker was. But the NFL changed the rule last fall, and Rosen will be able to be around.
“We all know you can’t get that time back,” Wilks said.
Tags: Budda Baker, Chris Campbell, Christian Kirk, draft, Josh Rosen, Sam Bradford, Steve Keim, Steve Wilks
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Christian Kirk, the Cardinals’ newest wide receiver from down the street, wore the No. 3 in college and that can’t happen in the NFL, one because it is against the rules, and two, because new teammate Josh Rosen has it anyway. So he went with the next best thing, choosing No. 13.
“Wore 3 in college and 13 was there, and it was a no-brainer,” Kirk said.
Most recently, 13 was wide receiver Jaron Brown’s number, but Brown departed as a free agent to Seattle. Before Brown, it was Hall of Famer Kurt Warner’s jersey.
“So I’ve got to rock it well,” Kirk said with a smile. “I’ve got a lot to live up to.”
As a Valley kid, Kirk knows all about Warner. That goes beyond what Warner did for the Cardinals. When he was young, Kirk actually played youth football with Warner’s son. Kurt would attend games and sometimes bring Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s also when Kirk’s relationship with his new teammate began. (Kirk said he was probably in fourth grade at the time, which can’t make Fitz feel great, can it?)
Warner even weighed in with the number choice, telling Kent Somers ““I love Christian as a person and a player! I would love to have him join the Cards 13 club!”
Tags: Christian Kirk, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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The long day ended with a pick of an offensive lineman and, more entertainingly, an ex-offensive lineman dancing his way to the announcement.
“I don’t know if I’m more excited about (our) last two selections or Deuce Lutui’s announcement of our pick,” GM Steve Keim said after the Cardinals took OL Mason Cole following the pick of WR Christian Kirk earlier in the day.
The Cardinals have three picks left, one each in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds, none of which are the Cardinals’ original 2018 picks. The fourth- and seventh-rounders are compensatory picks, the sixth-rounder the selection given by the Broncos in the Jared Veldheer trade. What might be the Cardinals looking for? Well, they could still take another offensive lineman, maybe a defensive lineman, and definitely a cornerback. Although both Keim and Steve Wilks insisted they won’t push anything.
Thus far, “we didn’t veer because of grades or because of positional need,” Keim said. “We stuck to value and we stuck to the person.”
— With the last day of the draft, “we’re going to have some players who have some holes,” Keim added. “We have to find certain traits we can hang our hat on.”
— When it comes to cornerback — the most glaring need the Cardinals have — do not forget that Wilks, a former defensive backs coach, frequently used and used successfully cornerbacks with perhaps not the highest draft pedigree. He can make different pieces work (Josh Norman, don’t forget, was a fifth-rounder.)
— Keim was asked about the first three picks thus far, which includes a QB, a receiver and offensive lineman. “Other than Coach kept staring at me talking about defensive players, it was good,” Keim deadpanned.
But he said Wilks has been “unbelievable” in understanding how defense hasn’t gotten a pick, and Wilks said he’s always been able to see the big picture in team building. Then he reiterated the need to build both the offensive and defensive lines, so again, a pick there wouldn’t be a surprise.
— As for that trade for Josh Rosen and the surrendered third-round pick, 79th overall?
“We got to the 79th pick and Coach and I looked at each other and we saw the players who were left on the board and I said, ‘I’m glad we have a potential franchise quarterback versus what was left,’ ” Keim said. “Not to take anything away with what was left on the board, but I would certainly do that again over and over.”
Tags: Christian Kirk, Deuce Lutui, draft, Mason Cole, Steve Keim
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