Coming to Fayetteville from a dynasty high school program, Denver Kirkland's path to the draft went exactly as planned. While it may have benefitted his draft stock to stay his senior year, he made the decision to declare in an effort to provide for his family. He very well could be a late round gem depending on his development and which position he ends up playing on the line.
Career at Arkansas:
Freshman (2013): Coming from Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, Kirkland was a four-star recruit and got playing time right off the bat. He appeared in all 12 games and started the final eight. He was named a freshman All-SEC and All-American selection.
Sophomore (2014): Started every game this season and was on the field for over 750 snaps. He led the way blocking for two 1,000-yard rushers and only gave up one sack.
Junior (2015): Named a preseason All-American by multiple publications. Again, he started every game as part of the famed "largest offensive line in the world." ESPN named him the SEC's 9th best offensive lineman.
Kirkland has two huge strengths going for him, his size and durability. 6-foot-5, 335 pounds is something that can't be taught. Just about every game this season, ESPN or CBS threw up a graphic showing how Kirkland was part of an offensive line bigger than any in football, including the NFL. He should have no issue stepping into an NFL training camp and working with people his size.
Some scouts do have issues with his frame however, which is described as top heavy. That has led to some issues of him being over reliant on bending at the waist, and that can cause some big issues with leverage against NFL linemen. He also had a poor showing at the combine, only getting 19 bench press reps, one of the poorest numbers among linemen.
His durability has also earned him some positive marks. Arkansas was incredibly fortunate to have their same starting 5 on the offensive line all 2015, and very few lineman can say they started 34 consecutive games like Kirkland can. That experience and health are both good signs for a pro career.
If Kirkland wants to have a long NFL career, a position change might be in order. At Arkansas he made the move to left tackle, something at the time he had never done before. Most scouting reports have him listed as a guard, which might be a more comfortable spot for him and a better use of his strengths. Arkansas used him at tackle to fill an immediate need and he answered the call. He can get to the second level run blocking and could do that much more often on the inside of the line. Talk about where he might go is pretty quiet, and the late rounds are always seemingly random, but the Patriots do have a highlight video of him, and Bret Bielema has talked about the good relationship he has with that organization.
Projection: His NFL career will likely depend on if he can make the transition back to guard and if he can develop better leverage.