The Cleveland Browns select OLB Christian Kirksey from Iowa with the #71st pick. Kirksey is 6’2″ 232 lbs and is a bit of a new-wave linebacker. I would classify him more as hybrid safety/linebacker and something I believe Mike Pettine is going to have some fun with. He’s got excellent athletic ability but I worry about his size and strength at the next level. It’s hard to argue with his production though. He finished with 104 tackles highlighting his football IQ that leads to him being in position to make the play. Again I worry about his size playing upfront having to shed blocks and taking down running backs who will have full momentum but he’s grinder and finds away to get it done. He’s being projected to play inside next to Karlos Dansby which probably means we’ve seen the last of Craig Robertson desperately flailing his arms in the air as a pass sails over his head right into the receiver who left him at the line of scrimmage. This is where I see him really excelling. With this new push for more athletic tight ends, defenses aren’t able to counter and get taken advantage of due to the linebacker being too slow and the safety not being strong enough to be physical with these huge tight ends. This guy could be the answer. He’s got great coverage skills, especially for a linebacker (having experience lining up over them on a 1 on 1 situation much like a corner) and is physical enough and quick enough (one of the four fastest OLB times of the 40 yard running a sub 4.6) to match these tight ends. Fighting fire with fire. I believe this is where he will excel and justify the 3rd round pick.
It’s hard to say I love the pick because there is still a gaping hole at the WR. A few things might be happening here. 1.) They may not believe Josh Gordon is going to be suspended for the entire season. 2.) They might not believe he is going to be suspended at all 3.) They’re not planning on competing this year and/or aren’t going to change up their plans for one busted season. 4.) They have a guy they like more or about the same as the receivers that have gone in the 2nd and 3rd round. Which is very possible given this deep WR class.
Here’s what I know so far from this draft. This organization has been killing it. They’ve played the draft, and other teams, like a fiddle. They’ve traded back when it made sense but also showed the manhood to go up to grab their guy. This gives me confidence that they’re being smart and have a plan.
I thought they’d address the ILB position, it just depended if they were going starter (early rounds) or if Pettine thought he already had 4 guys he could play on the field together (Paul Kruger, Dansby, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard) we’d grab depth in the later rounds. Obviously he thought he needed an ILB starter. I still trust he’ll find a way to use all 5 LBs in their proper place. Even with the Josh Gordon news this is the most confident I’ve felt about a Cleveland Browns team, coach and organization in a long time.
What are your thoughts?