Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't had the career everyone envisioned for him when he became the 17th-overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Tow injury-plagued seasons have left many already giving him the dreaded "bust" label.
During ESPN's broadcast of the NFL Draft's first round, former Buccaneers head coach and current network analyst Jon Gruden called Kirkpatrick "a bust" as the Bengals were drafting Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.
Kirkpatrick doesn't view the team drafting Dennard as an indictment against his abilities. He sees it for what it really is: The Bengals infusing youth into an aging defensive backfield that will look vastly different in 2-3 years.
"I actually was telling them that we needed a corner," Kirkpatrick said of conversations with coaches before the draft. "A guy that can come in and learn because we obviously know that some of the guys are up in age and they don't have that long to be here, but while they're here they'll make the best out of it. I was happy we got a corner."
Kirkpatrick welcomes the added competition, and it only pushes him more just to earn meaningful snaps with so many talented corners on the roster.
In fact, new Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph has praised Kirkpatrick for the work he's done this offseason.
"Dre has had a hell of a spring," Joseph said. "I think Dre has been very focused and is working very hard. I think Dre wants to be good. I think Dre wants to help our team win.
"So to hear that Dre is excited about wanting to bring in Darqueze, that's not surprising. I think Dre is secure in himself, he knows what he can do and what he should be able to do, so he's not worried about anything but himself, but of course happy for the team."
After missing part of the first-half year while playing in limited snaps, Kirkpatrick became a starter down the stretch and registered 30 tackles, five pass deflections and three interceptions.
His best performance as a pro came in Week 17 vs. the Baltimore Ravens. That game saw Joe Flacco target Kirkpatrick 11 times, but completed only five of them while two were picked-off by Dre, one of which for the first pick-6 of his young career.
Even with this upcoming season being Dre's third NFL season, he shouldn't be expected to get significant playing time if Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Leon Hall are all healthy.
But as soon as one of them goes down (Which is bound to happen), Kirkpatrick's time to shine will come.