Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Kirkland goes undrafted, signs with Raiders
Arkansas offensive lineman Denver Kirkland runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Denver Kirkland was not selected in the 2016 NFL Draft after deciding to forgo his senior season.
He had been projected to be drafted, but fell down draft boards after disappointing showings at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and Arkansas' pro day in March. Kirkland's test scores at the combine were among the worst of the 46 offensive linemen in attendance.
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Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said following the Razorbacks' win in the Liberty Bowl in January that he planed to meet with Kirkland and his family at their home in Miami, but Kirkland declared for the draft before the meeting was scheduled to take place. Kirkland was one of three Arkansas players to declare early this year, but the only to go undrafted.
Tight end Hunter Henry was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers and running back Alex Collins was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks.
Kirkland, who signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, is Arkansas' first true junior to declare early but go undrafted since 2004, when tight end Jason Peters and fullback Mark Pierce went undrafted. Peters went on to sign as an undrafted free agent and make eight Pro Bowls as a left tackle.
During his three-year career, Kirkland started his final 34 games with the Razorbacks, including all 13 games at left tackle in 2015. With his departure, Arkansas must replace three starting offensive linemen next season.
He helped pave the way for Collins and Jonathan Williams, who combined to rush for four 1,000-yard seasons behind Kirkland, and protect Brandon Allen, who was sacked only 36 times the last three seasons.
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