Christian Kirk is Undervalued in Best Ball Drafts
When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Christian Kirk this offseason to a 4 year $72M contract, many around the league panned the deal. This deal was seen as a massive overpay by the hapless Jaguars, for a player who had never cracked 1,000 yards in a season. Though this deal can be seen as overvalued in salary cap terms, it could signal to fantasy players that Christian Kirk is undervalued in Best Ball Drafts.
Kirk has been a solid second or third option for the Arizona Cardinals since he was drafted in the 2nd round in 2018. He’s never had the breakout people have expected, but he’s been decent with some deep threat ability. Kirk last season took on a larger role with DeAndre Hopkins missing 7 games, and he finished with 77 catches, 982 yards and 5 TDs. That was good for being WR26 in both .5 and full point PPR scoring. His average per game was a little lower 35 and 34 respectively, but still well above his current ADPs on Underdog- WR 41 and Draftkings- WR42.
Why is there such a discrepancy between his production last season and his current ADP? Yes, his per-game average was lower, but it was still on the lower end of a WR3. His 10.0 .5 per game average and 12.2 PPR were still respectable. Terry McLaurin finished with 10.3 and 12.6 in per-game averages and he’s going as WR 18 and 21 in Underdog and Draftkings. DeVonta Smith finished with per-game averages of 9.0 and 10.9, yet he’s going off the board as WR 36 and WR 35. Others such as Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Gabriel Davis and Rashod Bateman didn’t even crack 9.0 PPR points per game and they are going far higher in drafts.
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Now the reason for the difference is generally going to be the fact of the situation and opportunity for 2022. Kirk moving away from Kyler Murray in the Cardinals is getting dinged (more on that later), and that is causing the fall of his ADP. Players like Sutton and Jeudy are getting a clear upgrade in the offensive scheme and are now catching balls from an elite quarterback. Davis and Bateman are seeing major increases in their role this season (and Davis is in one of the highest-powered offenses in the league). Others have a less clear positive outlook, yet are still going far higher in drafts.
McLaurin is no doubt an incredibly talented wide receiver, and he will have his best quarterback ever in Carson Wentz throwing him the football. On the other hand, Washington figures to be more run-focused and he has by far the most competition for targets this season. The talent isn’t questioned, but the upside figures to be more muted than you’d like. Smith, also has zero questions about his natural talent, but his opportunity is pretty poor. The Eagles had the fewest passing attempts in the league last season, and Jalen Hurts struggled with efficiency. This season even if you assume a moderate increase in passing attempts and Hurts improving, Smith’s role is very questionable. A.J. Brown figures to lead the team in targets, and the Eagles threw a lot to their TEs and backs last season. It will be very difficult to see Smith have enough quality targets to finish as high as he did a year ago, much less where his current ADP is.
There is no question the Jaguars offense was downright terrible last season, and 1st overall pick Trevor Lawrence struggled as a rookie. How much should Kirk be docked for going to this Jacksonville offense is a question worth asking. It’s only worth asking though if we look at what the Jaguars are bringing to the table in 2022. Jacksonville added numerous pieces in free agency in addition to Kirk. Brandon Scherff was signed to shore up the offensive line, while WR Zay Jones and TE Evan Engram were added to join Kirk and holdover Marvin Jones as the passing weapons on the team. Second-year RB Travis Etienne missed all of last season due to injury, and he also could add an explosive element to this offense. The biggest addition though is Doug Pederson replacing Urban Meyer as head coach.
The Jaguars were completely dysfunctional last season, and the stories that have come out about how Meyer handled or prepared this offense are frankly embarrassing. That is one reason why when you watch Lawrence’s rookie season, his film was better than what his stats show. It’s reasonable to expect Lawrence to make a moderate jump this season, and at least have a semi-functional offense. If that is the case, it is clear that Kirk’s ADP is far too low.
The league may roll their eyes at the massive contract that Kirk received, but for fantasy players that should reinforce how the Jaguars plan on using him. Jacksonville didn’t pay him $18M AAV to be just a 2nd or 3rd option in this offense. He’s likely to end the season as the Jaguars leading target and their deep threat. Last season in Arizona Kirk only played on 76% of the snaps despite not missing a game. In terms of passing snaps, Kirk was out there for a good 87% of snaps. Most number one receivers though are going to be in the 90% total snap range and the 95+% of passing snaps. Given what he’s being paid, it should be expected to see Kirk run more routes this season in Jacksonville.
Last season Marvin Jones led the Jaguars with 120 targets and a 20.6% target Market Share. If Kirk sees those types of target numbers and market share, his production should absolutely improve. Kirk is also more appealing in Best Ball formats, as he can be a deep threat who should produce a couple of big spike weeks regardless. Now though on top of the potential spike weeks, Kirk can give you a solid floor as a WR3/FLEX option. There is even potential for a higher target number here for Kirk, as this offense should be improved. That should lead to more opportunities than Jones had a year ago.
Kirk is unlikely to finish in the top 15 or 20 in WR fantasy points this season, but he is going far too low in fantasy drafts based on his projected role in this offense. Kirk should easily be able to outplay his ADP, and his upside even warrants taking him a round or even two early.