Fantasy Riser: Beam Christian Kirk up Your Draft Boards

Even with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins via trade, SI Fantasy analyst Matt De Lima looks into Cardinals WR Christian Kirk’s likely ADP rise as he enters his third season in Arizona.
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One of the more popular names at the quarterback position has become Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.

Entering his second season after a promising rookie year, Murray is already pushing his way into the top-five conversation for the best fantasy QBs. He’s not quite at the Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson level just yet, but he is right in the mix with the second-tier composed of Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson.

If you believe he is deserving, and that appears to be the consensus, surely all his QB production won’t flow to DeAndre Hopkins alone. Living legend and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is coming off two so-so seasons (75-804-4 in 2019 and 69-734-6). Meanwhile, third-year breakout-waiting-to-happen Christian Kirk will be sitting in the slot often and played in nearly 99-percent of the team’s offensive snaps a year ago.

Kirk posted 108 targets for 68 receptions with 709 yards and three TDs in 2019. He missed three games with ankle injuries and was out the last month of 2018 due to a broken foot.

Even with Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler waiting in the wings, I’m not too worried because Kirk has been groomed to play all over. He’s been the WR1, he’s been in the slot and now he’s going to see a ton of man coverage with so much attention being given to Hopkins. Just remember, he is definitely better-suited to score big points in PPR leagues over standard scoring.

Kirk is a more natural fit in the slot and given Murray’s ability to extend plays, we’re all expecting a leap forward with Arizona’s playmakers. He’s got a great shake to his game that gets corners off-balance. What you’ll notice when you watch him is he can make tiny route adjustments to create separation without losing momentum or acceleration in and out of his breaks.

Since the arrival of Hopkins, Kirk has seen his average draft position dip a bit. He is the 39th WR drafted and his 105 ADP puts him in the same range as receivers like Darius Slayton and Mike Williams. So Dak Prescott can support maybe three 1,000 yard receivers but Murray’s WR2 is only a flex play? I understand some may feel Fitzgerald can still contribute significantly, and the respect given to him is well-deserved; however, if we’re anticipating such a leap from Murray, the production has to go somewhere.

Over at AllCardinals, Mason Kern posted a video conference with reporters in early June in which Kirk said:

"I think the word that summarizes it was just frustrating. I hold myself to a high expectation, and so the fact that I didn't meet many of my expectations for what I wanted Year 2 to look like, for me, was frustrating. But, at the same time, you've just got to battle through it.

"I couldn't dwell on it and at the end of the year, regardless of how bad my ankle was hurting, nobody is healthy at the end of the year," Kirk said. "I was just battling and doing everything that I could to play my role and make the (most of the) opportunities that were given to me."

Look for Kirk to rise up draft boards as fantasy draft season approaches. They’ll eventually acknowledge the cognitive dissonance in ranking Murray in the top-five yet the Cardinals having only one WR in the top-35 and no established TEs.