Cleveland tabs Kirksey

First Iowa LB selected in four years

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IOWA CITY — Iowa outside linebacker Christian Kirksey was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of Friday’s NFL draft.

Kirksey, who stood 6 1 1/2 and weighed 233 pounds, was taken with the 71st pick. He’ll compete for playing time at inside linebacker in Cleveland’s 3-4 defense.

When he got the phone call Friday night, Kirksey said “it was mind blowing.” He’s confident he’ll compete for playing time this year.

“I think I’m very athletic and fast enough to play in a defense like the Browns’,” Kirksey said on a conference call Friday night. “I think I bring a lot of versatility to their defense and some leadership skills.”

“A nice physical linebacker,” Kirksey described himself. “A guy who’s not afraid to stick his nose in. A guy with a high motor, who runs to the ball and never stops until the play is done.”

Kirksey said he had discussions with Cleveland scouts a few days before the draft but he “had no idea” where he was going. He’s excited to join new Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel in Cleveland’s roookie class.

Kirksey started the final 38 games of his career and finished 15th in Iowa history with 315 tackles, including 151 solo stops. He’s only the third player in school history to record three defensive touchdowns. He had four interceptions — two were touchdowns — and recovered a pair of fumbles that resulted in one touchdown. He added 5.5 sacks for minus-40 yards and had 13.5 tackles for loss.

“He can run and he can cover,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “A hard worker, a good nose for the ball, I love his battle speed. He can create turnovers. He’s not a guy that’s going to spend a lot of time behind the line of scrimmage. He’s going to be a cover linebacker.”

“For the most part he’s a guy that played that overhang position and basically a (Arizona safety) Tyrann Mathieu, just bigger,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “I don’t think he has to be a three-down player early in his career, but I think he’ll develop into that.”

Kirksey hails from St. Louis and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection this year. He competed in the Senior Bowl in January.

“He’s a good football player,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he can play inside or outside, and he’ll play inside for the Cleveland Browns.”

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