As the NFL evolves more and more into a passing league, the stock for stingy, shut-down cornerbacks has become a primary need. The Bengals, one-time holders of arguably the best CB tandem in the NFL just two seasons ago, may look to upgrade the position in April's upcoming draft.
While Nate Clements held his own at age 31, Johnathan Joseph flourished in his first season with the Texans. With a bevy of first-round talent at the position, the Bengals may decide to go young and pair a recovering Leon Hall with an explosive talent. The general assumption is that LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne will be off the board, however, overlooking the likes of Dre Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins could come back to haunt some teams.
Early mock drafts have indicated that the Bengals are looking to use the one of their two first-round draft picks on North Alabama corner Janoris Jenkins. After playing his first three years at Florida, Jenkins was dismissed prior to the 2011 season after two drug related incidents in a three month span. Anyone who follows the Bengals are quite aware of the numerous legal encounters over Marvin Lewis' tenure. Despite being 5'10", he held elite SEC receivers in check, including current Bengal and former Georgia star, A.J. Green. Jenkins could also be an asset in the return game.
North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins was in my view the real winner from Tuesday. Not only did he look very balanced and flexible when asked to change directions and turn and run during positional drills. He also ran in the mid 4.4 range and posted an electric 1.47-ten yard split. That's click and close ability at it's finest.
Depending on which direction the Bengals want to go, they may decide to go with the more physical of the two. Dre Kirkpatrick, who has had legal troubles of his own and a member of two National Championship teams, is 6'3" and an excellent cover corner with the physicality of a safety. There is no doubt playing in the SEC has been a plus, covering big, speedy receivers in any given week. However, there is skepticism about his competitiveness and there are concerns about playing in the SEC.
Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick ran a bit faster than I expected, posting a time in the mid/low 4.4 range. He's a long, lean kid who isn't the most explosive of athletes (10-foot broad, 35-inch vertical), but his solid 40 time looks to have locked up his spot in the top-15.
The Bengals could shy away from Jenkins, as a lot of teams may, along with the possibility of Kirkpatrick being off the board, the team could pass on selecting a corner in the first round. If this is the case, Alfonzo Dennard or Stephon Gilmore may be available for them in the second round.
Another top tier corner who had a strong day was South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. The 6-1, 190-pound defensive back posted a 40 time of 4.37, showcased good range in the deep half and tracked the football well. He looks like an ideal zone type corner who can hit, range and track the football out of his breaks.