Wednesday, October 28, 2020

UDFA 2020: Who is Kirk Merritt?

As we continue our look at the Dolphins 2020 UDFA class, we move on to WR Kirk Merritt. The athletic Arkansas State receiver ended his college career with 158 receptions for 1872 yards (11.8 avg) and 19 touchdowns.

Kirk Merritt’s Long Road to NFL

Merritt has taken a long and winding road to the NFL. Starting his college career at Oregon in 2015, he played a little of his freshman season before leaving due to ‘family situations’ and would then join Texas A&M.

Before playing a game, Kirk Merritt was dismissed from the Texas A&M team for indecent exposure on campus. This led him to take the JUCO path where he would join up with East Mississippi Community College of Netflix’s ‘Last Chance U’ fame.

At East Mississippi Community College he was part of the 2017 team that won the NJCAA championship before joining up with Arkansas State in 2018, where he would go on to have 2 productive seasons with the Red Wolves. This storied college career does mean that Merritt will be 24 years old when entering the NFL.

Kirk Merritt had 1,872 yards and 19 touchdowns for Arkansas State
Kirk Merritt had 1,872 yards and 19 touchdowns for Arkansas State

Athleticism off the charts

Kirk Merritt didn’t receive an invite to the NFL combine but at Arkansas State’s pro day he put on an absolute show of freakish athleticism. All of the following results were verified by former NFL scout Josh Cox:

• 4.33 in the 40-yard dash (2nd among combine WRs)
• 4.02 in the 20-yard shuttle (1st among combine WRs)
• 45.5-inch vertical jump (1st among combine WRs)
• 11’3” broad jump (3rd among combine WRs)
• 23 bench press reps (1st among combine WRs)

These results should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Merritt. The WR also recorded a 10.45 clocking in the 100m dash during his senior year at high school.

Scouting Report

Merritt’s athleticism really showed up on tape. He was featured frequently on quick throws, screens, and end-arounds where his ability to make defenders miss really showed up. This should suit the Dolphins offensive scheme under new OC Chan Gailey, who likes to deploy the spread offense.

Featured predominantly out of the slot at college, Merritt also showed the ability to win contested catches and beat defenders multiple ways. Kirk Merritt showed up as a willing and able blocker also, something which should please the Dolphins coaches.

One knock on Merritt is that he was never that number 1 guy in the receiving room at college. Omar Bayless (2019 Sun Belt Player of the Year) had 93 catches for 1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns in 13 games this past season but also went undrafted.

This leads to questions on the quality of the opposition faced in college and shows the uphill battle Merritt may have to make the Dolphins squad this coming season.

One way that Merritt could make the Dolphins squad is on Special Teams. He was Arkansas State’s leading Kick returner last year, returning 15 kicks for 415 yards (27.7 avg). Adding Special Teams value also was a clear focus this offseason for the Dolphins, with 2020 Draft picks Noah Igbinoghene, Brandon Jones, and fellow UDFA WR Matt Cole all having returning experience at college.

What’s ahead for Kirk Merritt?

The Dolphins have a WR room full of experience with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Albert Wilson seemingly locks to make the roster. Merritt will compete with veteran receivers Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns, Isiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Ricardo Louis, and Gary Jennings as well as fellow UDFA Matt Cole and possibly gadget player Malcolm Perry for only a few spots on the roster.

The battle for roster spots will make for an interesting watch during training camp and preseason games but Merritt’s athleticism, big-play ability, and capabilities on Special Teams mean that he has a shot of making the roster.

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