In our annual 32 picks in 32 days CSNPhilly.com mock draft, we select one player each day until the start of the NFL draft on April 26.
17. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama, 6-2186
Behind rookie sensations Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, the Cincinnati Bengals were the surprise rebound team of the 2011 season. The first-year duo led a charge that saw the Bengals go from a 4-12 team in 2010 to 9-7 playoff team that was ousted in the first round by Houston.
The Dalton-to-Green connection has a bright future, and the Bengals are in position to further upgrade the passing attack by drafting a wide receiver either with this pick (acquired from Oakland) or at No. 21. With this pick, though, I believe they should pay more attention to a secondary that is in flux.
The Bengals missed Johnathan Josephs presence last season after the talented cover man left for Houston via free agency. This off-season the Bengals have signed free agent Jason Allen and re-signed Adam Pacman Jones. Fellow corners Nate Clements (32 years old) and Leon Hall (torn Achilles in November) have issues that make the position one that requires attention.
With this pick, the Bengals should take Dre Kirkpatrick, who was a three-year starter at Alabama, in the highly-competitive SEC, before leaving after his junior season. He brings size (6-2, 186 pounds) to the position that will allow him to match up with tall receivers, yet his length does not take away from his quickness and footwork. Hes smooth in his backpedal and shows a quick twitch when having to change direction. Despite his somewhat lean build, Kirkpatrick is not afraid to tackle, although he will sometimes throw himself into the ball carrier rather than wrap him up. Overall, he shows the ability to be a solid man-to-man corner that is not averse to supporting against the run. He plays with high energy and confidence.
In January, Kirkpatrick was arrested and charged with marijuana possession. The incident happened one week after he announced he was leaving school, and initially seemed to cast a pall over his draft status. Within a few weeks the charges were dropped. Under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have not been afraid to take on players that have been considered risks, and in this case Kirkpatrick has the talent to back up his Top 20 draft status.
Kirkpatricks presence in the secondary would give Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer what they sorely lack: a cornerstone back-end defender for the future. Much of the Bengals success in the secondary in 2012 will depend on Halls health, and if the 27-year-old recovers from his serious injury, the future at the position would be bright. Especially when competing in a division that proves each year only the strong defenses survive.