TUSCALOOSA AL - SEPTEMBER 11: Dre Kirkpatrick #21 of the Alabama Crimson Tide attempts to gain control of a fumble against quarterback Robert Bolden #1 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 11 2010 in Tuscaloosa Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Mock draft after mock draft has the Cincinnati Bengals selecting a cornerback with either the 17th or 21st pick. It's a good idea, because, to be frank, cornerback is a glaring hole in the Bengals 2012 defense. Not only are both backups Adam Jones and Kelly Jennings free agents, but starter Leon Hall had a serious achilles injury in week 10 of the regular season and may not be the same player after an extensive rehabilitation process. To top things off, the other starter, Nate Clements, is the oldest player (32) signed to the team in 2012, and had more than a few slip-ups in coverage this year.
The Bengals will likely infuse some young talent into this CB corps, and may be taking one or more cornerbacks in this year's draft. Some popular names include Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick, North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins, Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard, and South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. Of these four, Kirkpatrick is usually the first one mocked off the board, but his stock has slightly dropped as a result of being arrested for marijuana possession (the charges have since been dropped, as it was revealed that he was merely the passenger in the car and the drugs were not his).
Kirkpatrick is viewed as the second best cornerback in the draft, the first being LSU's Morris Claiborne, who will probably be drafted in the top 5 overall.
Since Kirkpatrick will probably fall in the middle of the first round to a cornerback-needy team, it's no surprise that many media members and fans believe he could be taken by the Bengals in the first round. In fact, KFFL recently published a scouting report on Kirkpatrick and listed both Bengals picks as possible landing spots for the young cornerback.
This scouting report contains a great summary of Kirkpatrick's positives and negatives. It lists him as a player who "plays with a lot of confidence and earned the nickname 'Swag' from his teammates" and "excellent man-to-man coverage skills", with "enough recovery speed to usually make up for being too aggressive".
- Plenty of size to contend with large receivers (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and win jump balls - large wingspan helps him break up passes
- Two-year starter - was tested considerably as a sophomore and quickly grew into the role
- Plays with a lot of confidence and earned the nickname "Swag" from his teammates
- Excellent man-to-man coverage skills
- Enough recovery speed to usually make up for being too aggressive
- Fluid hips to smoothly transition out of his backpedal
- Experience as a blitzer
- Willing tackler - excels against outside running plays
- Strong work ethic - respected teammate
- Special teams experience as an outside blocker
- Reasonable amount of upside
When it comes to his flaws, KFFL only says that he can be too aggressive at times, he tries to jam too often which can result in him getting off balance and that he is still raw in zone coverage.
If Kirkpatrick slips past the Cowboys at the 14th pick, I think he's a very solid pick at 17. He has great height for a cornerback at 6-foot-2, (something that Dennard and Jenkins don't have). He's also been starting on one of the best defenses in college football for the last two years, and excels in both coverage and in run support. He has few flaws and can contribute right away. That's an A pick in my book.