Jaxon Kirkland is an exciting prospect to watch in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft. For one, his size and athletic ability put him near the top in all offensive lineman categories. Secondly, Kirkland may have the best hand-placement of all blockers in all of college football. Finally, his lateral talent of playing from sideline to sideline makes him useable at every position on the line. Simply, he is a top-five tackle prospect. However, Kirkland still needs to improve in some areas. In this early draft prospect edition from the Sports Wave, we will discuss Jaxon Kirkland and his scouting profile so far in 2021.
Position: Offensive Tackle/Guard
Weight: 310 LBS
Before we dive into game-film, we need to understand Kirkland’s strengths and weaknesses first. Kirkland’s best attribute is his ability to execute fundamental football. As mentioned previously, Kirkland has the best blocking hand placement in college football. Furthermore, Kirkland plays with a ferocious energy on every snap. He plays to the whistle on every snap and is always looking to hit someone. Additionally, Kirkland is surprisingly athletic for his size. While it’s not Hall-of-Fame level, Kirkland plays with decent mobility on the outside on runs and long-developing pass plays. Overall, a great player to have as your starting left tackle.
However, Kirkland does have some flaws that may limit his ability at the next level. Firstly, Kirkland lacks a lot of power you would expect from an offensive tackle. Bull rushers give the Kirkland major headaches as he often loses his footing against strong edge rushers. He needs to add more weight to find a better first step if he wants to play left tackle in the NFL against more vigorous opponents. Additionally, Kirkland needs to improve his blocking angles too. His feet get over-eager sometimes, leading to missing blocks from faster players.
Film Against Michigan
Unfortunately for most draft analysts, free full-game film from individual games doesn’t come out until the end of the season. Nonetheless, there are still compelling plays to note from Washington’s game against Michigan. Overall, he played a decent game against a challenging opponent. But he didn’t fare too well against the star Aiden Hutchinson. We can see Hutchinson blow over Kirkland, disrupt the pass, stop Washington on third down from the first drive. Not a great start. Next, Kirkland loses track of his feet, and he misses an easy block for a potential first down. However, he played well after those early plays. On Washington’s first touchdown drive, he locks up Hutchinson for a clean pocket and release.
Overall, Kirkland played well enough to keep his draft stock. However, he blew nobody away and still shows a tremendous need for improvement.
Film Against Arkansas State
Kirkland played much better against Arkansas St. the following week. Although it’s no secret that Arkansas St. isn’t exactly top-tier competition, his performance was easily the best for the Huskies that day. From the start, Kirkland moves his feet perfectly and stops a wimpy pass rusher. On Washington’s next drive, Kirkland provides a crystal-clear pocket for his quarterback to throw a deep-six down the sideline. Kirkland, throughout the entire game, proved he is a worthy prospect for a lineman-needy team.
Overall, Kirkland is a top-five tackle prospect with a possibility to be third or fourth. However, he needs to improve his blocking power and his how he angles his body on running plays. Kirkland should be on everyone’s watch list for the rest of the year as he continues to prove how great of a lineman he is in college football and maybe someday the NFL.
Round Projection: 1st-2nd
Pro Comparison: Brian O’Neill