TEM PE, Ariz. (AP) — Too small, too slow. Christian Kirk is well aware of what critics said to him going into this year’s NFL draft.
They’re right in front of him every day as he leaves home.
“I have a blackboard at my house that has it all written up,” he said. “It’s all right where I leave for the door every day.”
He hasn’t forgotten that five receivers were drafted ahead of him.
“I thought I was the best and I’m out to prove that,” Kirk said.
He is off to a good start on a not-so-good team. Halfway through the season, his 31 catches and 410 yards receiving rank second among NFL rookie wide receivers behind only Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley (33 catches, 463 yards). And Kirk has done it on a team that ranks last in the NFL in offense and next-to-last in passing offense.
“This guy is the ultimate pro,” coach Steve Wilks said. “You look at rookies coming in really trying to find their way. This guy works hard each and every day, trying to take care of his body, trying to prep himself. I think, really, the opportunities that he has been getting, he’s taking advantage of them, meaning the throws, the catches. He’s finishing those plays, which is great.”
In his previous game, a week ago Sunday, Kirk broke free in the back of the end zone and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from fellow rookie Josh Rosen with 34 seconds to play, the winning score in an 18-15 victory over San Francisco.
The Cardinals (2-6), who play at Kansas City (8-1) on Sunday, had last weekend off.
“I went back this week and actually watched the Washington game (the season opener),” Kirk said, “just seeing where I was at then until now. It’s night and day. So I feel like every week I’m progressing and I still want to do that throughout the season.”
Kirk has lots of hometown support. He grew up in suburban Phoenix before choosing Texas A&M over Arizona State in high school.
He has developed a close relationship with Rosen, who took over as starting quarterback in Week 4.
“I love Christian,” Rosen said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’re on the same page about everything. We hang out off the field. Football’s a very social game, and I think sometimes we can pick each other up and get each other going whenever we might be sputtering a little bit. Football’s a game of relationships, so it’s good to have a strong one.”
Kirk, after a standout career at Texas A&M, was drafted by Arizona in the second round, the 47th player chosen overall. He stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 200 pounds and there were concerns about that and his speed among pro scouts.
Not for the Cardinals though, Wilks said.
“Not at all,” he said. “It may have been a concern with other teams, but not with us. We felt like he had speed. I know that was a question: ‘He’s just a slot receiver.’ (But) he’s shown he can take the top off.”
Rosen, who has his own thoughts about quarterbacks drafted ahead of him, said people sometimes look for the wrong things when evaluating a player.
“I think sometimes you just have to turn on tape and watch guys play,” he said. “(Kansas City’s) Tyreek Hill on the other side is one of the best receivers in football right now, and he’s tiny. He’s unbelievable. I think they’re different kinds of receivers, but just in the sense that I think a lot of guys look at the wrong things. If you turn on Christian’s tape from college, he’s ripping people up and down the field.”