There’s a new man in the middle of the Green Bay defense and his name is Christian Kirksey. Blake Martinez was not retained and signed a 3 year/$30 million deal with the New York Giants. This leaves behind a big hole in the middle of the Packers’ defense. A hole they are banking on Kirksey to fill after signing him to a 2 year/$16 million contract.
One thing Kirksey brings to the table right away is familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns when they drafted Kirksey in the third round of the 2014 draft. Kirksey ended up playing two of his six seasons (2014 and 2015) under Pettine while in Cleveland.
During his time in Cleveland, Kirksey looked like a linebacker on the rise after putting up stellar seasons in 2016 and 2017. In that two year span, Kirksey compiled 182 solos (286 combined tackles), 17 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Unfortunately, injuries marred his next two seasons as he has missed a total of 23 games. In 2018 it was a hamstring injury and 2019 a torn labrum in his shoulder ended his season.
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After being released by the Browns, Kiksey has landed in a spot with a big opportunity. The middle linebacker spot in the Green Bay defense has proven to be one of the more productive roles to rack up tackles. Over the last three seasons Blake Martinez has amassed an impressive 443 total tackles (solos plus assists). Not only that, now that Martinez is gone he leaves behind a vacated 1,024 snaps that need to be replaced.
While Martinez is a stout tackler, Kirksey is strong against the run himself and is very disruptive as a blitzer. Kirksey is fully capable of running the show for Green Bay and brings a little more speed to a defense that has been looking to add some.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Kirksey has the ability and role to have a big 2020 season. As I said earlier, he inherits a very productive role for a defense that will be depending on him to be their leader. Right now, Green Bay’s linebacker unit is full of inexperience after Kirksey. It’s up in the air who will man the linebacker spot next to him in their base 3-4 alignment. They also play a lot of dime and will bring a safety up in the box in a hybrid role. Meaning, Kirksey doesn’t face a ton of competition for tackles in the middle of the Green Bay defense.
Currently, Kirksey is coming off the board as LB24 according to the May ADP over at IDPGuys. This feels like a great spot to grab Kirksey. If he can stay healthy, owner’s are getting a rock solid LB2 with a legitimate possibility to finish as an LB1.
The injury concern is certainly there, but I feel Kirksey is well worth the risk relative to his current price. Ability and opportunity are huge in IDP and Kirksey checks both of those boxes firmly. If he can get back to his 2016-17 form, Kirksey will reward his IDP owner’s nicely this year.
I hope everyone is staying safe and as always feel free to reach me on Twitter @KBellf54 with any questions or feedback you may have.