WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY? What isn't? Your team just drafted a linebacker Iowa assistant coach LeVar Woods called "a once a generation type player." Woods would know. He, like Kirksey, was an honorable mention all-Big Ten linebacker and permanent Iowa team captain. Woods spent seven seasons in the NFL post-Iowa. He's coached linebackers for the Hawkeyes for three seasons. Woods and fellow LB coach Jim Reid were named linebacker coach(es) of the year by Footballscoop.com last January. Kirksey's production on the field, along with fellow seniors James Morris and Anthony Hitchens, helped both coaches earn such an honor.
WHAT DID HE DO THAT WAS SO GREAT? Kirksey arrived at Iowa as a skinny prospect. Recruiting services gave him three stars as an "athlete." He was thought of as a safety prospect out of high school at 6', 200 pounds despite playing linebacker and fullback at Hazelwood East in St. Louis, Missouri.
It was surprising taht Kirk Ferentz put Kirksey on the field on special teams as a true freshman. Typically, if Ferentz skips the redshirt for a player, it's because he's getting a young player ready for significant contribution down the road. Kirksey spent the remainder of his rookie season on special teams, but earned a starting job as a sophomore and never relinquished that starting role.
His speed at the weakside linebacker spot was noticeable from his first start. He finished 2011 with 110 tackles, tops on the team. He moved to outside linebacker halfway through the 2011 season and finished his career there. Moving further away from the line of scrimmage didn't hurt his tackle total, though: he finished third on the team in both 2012 and '13.
HOW ARE HIS PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES? Speed is his game. He played at around 220 pounds while at Iowa. He inched up closer to 230-235 his senior season. At the Senior Bowl, he weighed in over 240, but his playing weight is likely to be around 235 unless your team moves him inside. He's got a thin lower half but carries his weight well. Most NFL Draftniks cited his size as an issue, but he plays bigger than they think.
With his speed, he can cover a lot of space in pass coverage. He's also an effective pass rusher off the edge, as we saw this past season at Iowa. He played in the middle at the Senior Bowl and showed the ability to get through traffic and make tackles in pursuit.
|HEIGHT||WEIGHT||ARM||HAND||1ST 40-YARD||2ND 40-YARD||40-YARD OFFICIAL|
|6'2"||233||32 3/8"||9 3/8"||DNP||DNP||DNP|
PRO DAY RESULTS:
2014 Pro Day results: LB Christian Kirksey pic.twitter.com/h8sZkQiojb— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) March 25, 2014
WHAT ABOUT THE BAD? It's really hard to find a problem with Kirksey. His size is probably the biggest reason for concern, but as we've mentioned, he plays bigger than he is. Maybe he's kind of a "tweener" and your team will have to figure out if he's a middle linebacker or outside linebacker. He may be better suited for a 3-4 defensive scheme but he's played in a 4-3 his entire career and will need time to learn a new defense.
WAS THIS A GOOD DRAFT PICK? Without a doubt, it should be an excellent pick. Kirksey's Pro Day performance answered questions following the NFL Combine about his overall speed and quickness. He can be a special teams contributor that eventually locks down a starting linebacker position for several years.
He played through injuries and never missed a game his final three years as a starting linebacker in the Big Ten. He was named permanent team captain twice and can eventually become a leader in the locker room and on the field. He's learned from a former NFL linebacker while at Iowa and the Iowa program has prepared him to be a pro.
CAN I FOLLOW OUR NEW ADDITION ON TWITTER? He is and you can follow:
I will be great! Just wait on it.— Christian Kirksey (@chriskirksey20) May 3, 2014