Rebuilding the offensive line has to be a priority for the New York Giants when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft. It wouldn’t be a surprise, at all, for them to use one, or several, of their high draft picks on an offensive lineman. But this draft has great depth along the offensive line and could teams could find potential starters late into the second day.
Washington Huskies senior offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland could be one of those sleepers. He is hardly an unknown and was reckoned as one of the best senior prospects coming into the 2021 season. However, a poor season by Washington and declarations by several very talented underclassmen have Kirkland flying under the radar.
Could Kirkland be a value pick to help reinforce a struggling offensive line?
Prospect: Jaxson Kirkland (51)Games Watched: vs. Michigan (2021), vs. Oregon (2021), vs. UCLA (2021)
Height: 6-foot-7Weight: 310 poundsGames played (starts): 39
Best: Length, athleticism, technique, experience, competitive toughnessWorst: Play strength, man-gap blockingProjection: A developmental offensive tackle with starting upside
Washington Huskies offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland is an intriguing prospect with solid athleticism and a varied background.
Kirkland has made 39 starts in his career, 25 of which have been at (right) guard while the other 14 have been at left tackle. He’s acquitted himself well at both positions, generally playing with good athleticism and technique as well as great competitive toughness.
Kirkland has a long, lean frame at 6-foot-7, 310 pounds which is likely suited for offensive tackle at the NFL level. He shows solid athleticism for the position with good short-area agility and a quick, balanced kick-slide. He moves well in space and has the foot speed to mirror speed rushers off the edge. Kirkland generally plays with good initial leverage, bending his knees to play with good hip and pad level. He also works to time his strikes well, gain his opponent’s chest plate and play with inside leverage to control defenders. He also has great reflexes and is remarkably quick off the snap. getting into his pass set or run blocks so fast it often seems as though he is on the verge of committing a false start.
Kirkland is a tough, competitive player who works to sustain his blocks and gives consistent effort throughout his reps and throughout his game. He does a good job of keeping his head on a swivel and looks for work throughout the play.
Kirkland has a noticeably narrow lower body and lacking play strength is his primary weakness. While he can stand up to power rushers when playing with good leverage, he can be put on skates if he allows his knees to straighten. Kirkland is vulnerable to a good bull rush and struggles to create movement in the run game. Kirkland will likely be limited to zone blocking schemes at the NFL level and could struggle if asked to play in a man-gap scheme.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Jaxson Kirkland will likely begin his career as a reserve utility lineman in the NFL. His background at both the guard and tackle positions could allow coaches to use him as a backup for both guard and tackle. That should increase his value to teams while making sure he gets consistent practice reps to aid in his development. That said, Kirkland’s frame is much more suited to the tackle position and he could struggle inside at the NFL level. Teams looking to develop him should do so with an eye toward a future at left or right tackle.
Kirkland is already a functional athlete with solid technique and great competitive toughness, and that could allow him to compete for a starting job early in his career. However, his lanky lower body and need for more play strength could hold him back early on at the next level.
Adding more size and strength – while maintaining his athleticism – should be the priority early in his career. If he can do that, Kirkland has the potential to be a success story in player development and a potential sleeper at the tackle position.