With the NFL draft almost a week away, Viking Update continues to look at the college players that the Minnesota Vikings had in for visits. One of them was Arkansas Razorbacks offensive guard Denver Kirkland.
He became a starter along Arkansas’ line the final eight games of his freshman season. He then started all 13 games of his sophomore season before he was moved over to left tackle his junior year. Kirkland then decided to forgo his senior season and enter into the draft early.
Even though he showed the ability to play left tackle in college, at 6-foot-4, 335 pounds, he is better suited to slide back to the interior of the line at the next level.
Vikings’ needs: The Vikings made numerous transactions in free agency this offseason, many of which were along the offensive line. They are not in dire need of help there this season, but having a guy like Kirkland on their roster could help them in the long run. A lot of their offensive linemen are nearing the end of their career (or in the final year of their contract), so the Vikings likely will be looking for their future starters in the next couple seasons.
Measurables: Not only does Kirkland’s height and weight make him a good fit for playing guard in the NFL, but so do his arms and hands. His arm length is a little under 35 inches, which is a little short for a tackle, but a great size for playing on the interior of the line. He also has hands that are nearly 10 inches, which are a good size for being able to handle the big defensive tackles he would be going up against.
Kirkland also showed relatively good athleticism competing in drills at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day. He did a majority of the drills twice, but his best results were a 5.55-second 40-yard dash, 19 reps of the 225-pound bench press, 8-foot-2 broad jump, 23-inch vertical, 5.06-second 20-yard short shuttle and an 8.0-second three-cone drill.
Analysis: Kirkland has a massive frame that allows him to take the punishment he will receive in the trenches during an NFL season. Even when he does get bruised up, though, he has the toughness to continue to play without missing any time.
He has a good understanding of working gaps and getting up to the second level to secure the linebackers, according to draft analysts. His big hands allow him to land powerful punches on his opponents and then secure them when he makes contact.
Kirkland often has issues dropping his head while run blocking and protecting the passer, so even though he has a powerful punch he has been known to miss from time to time. He has also shown the issue of bending his waist too much, which causes him to be unbalanced while blocking. That would have to be corrected because NFL offensive line coaches do not want an unbalanced blocker.
There are plenty of positives about Kirkland, but the negatives would have to be corrected with better technique. He is projected as a late-round selection right now and will need time to try to make the adjustment to the NFL.