Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore, and Dre Kirkpatrick were the top 3 corners selected in the 2012 NFL Draft and somehow all three of them appear poised to hit the free agent market this offseason. Kirkpatrick is an extremely long corner who struggled early in his career, but has seemed to improve year after year and turned in his best season so far in 2016.
The Bengals have a difficult decision facing them at corner. With Kirkpatrick set to be a free agent, Pacman Jones in trouble again (and getting old), and two recent 1st round picks in Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III on the 2016 roster, it will be interesting to see what they end up doing with their roster here. I believe Jones’ recent arrest makes it more likely that Kirkpatrick is a priority for them, but every team has their limit and the Bengals don’t have a ton of cap space.
One thing we know is that Kirkpatrick wants to play for a winner. Check out this savage response to a Rams fan trying to recruit him to LA on Twitter:
The Titans are likely to be viewed as “a winner” for the first time in a long time this offseason so getting an audience with Kirkpatrick seems quite possible.
- Age: 27 (will turn 28 on 10/26/2017)
- Height: 6’-2”
- Weight: 185 lbs
- College: Alabama
- Experience: 5 years
Drafted in the 1st round (#17 overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Bengals
Dre Kirkpatrick Career Stats.csv
As a rookie in 2012, Kirkpatrick suffered a knee injury in the preseason which kept him out of the first 8 games of the season. After he returned, he played sparingly as a backup until he was forced to leave a game in Week 12 with a concussion that ended his rookie season.
The next season saw Kirkpatrick play in 14 games and pick up 3 starts in addition to starting in the Bengals playoff game, but he really struggled in his transition to the NFL game.
2014 was more of the same with Kirkpatrick picking up some starts at the end of the season, but his play in those starts began to look more like a future NFL star as he picked off Peyton Manning twice in the Bengals game against the Broncos.
In 2015 Kirkpatrick became the full time starter and struggled. He finished the year with a horrific grade on PFF of 39.6 which is nearly as bad as Perrish Cox’s 34.9 from last year.
He bounced back in 2016 though as he started to play much better and make fewer mental mistakes. His PFF grade jumped up to 74.7 despite playing on a bad Bengals team. The worry becomes whether that jump in play was due to a contract year or a sign of real change.
Here is what NFL.com had to say about Kirkpatrick going in to the 2012 NFL Draft:
Athletes like Kirkpatrick are able to defy the perception that taller skill players don't have the footwork and agility that shorter players do. Kirkpatrick will thrive initially within a zone scheme, where he can use his burst and length to cover ground and remain active in plays. He is so talented athletically that he could likely be tested early on an island in man coverage and excel, and he possesses the confidence and field presence necessary to take on such a task.
Kirkpatrick has issues that surround all aspects of his prospects and overall value as he enters the draft. He is very thin and some will question his ability to play physically at the next level. Although technically not a tweener, as he has always played and been advertised as a cornerback, his size and athletic ability could encourage a transition to the safety position. It remains to be seen if Kirkpatrick can add weight to compete at that position after three years at Alabama where his physical development was minimal.
How Kirkpatrick Fits the Titans
Kirkpatrick likely won’t receiver quite as large of a contract this offseason as other corners like Bouye, Johnson, and Gilmore. Kirkpatrick profiles as an outside corner who uses his great length to bother receivers. He has a very lean frame so he’s not as physical as other taller corners though and he has had struggles with tackling and run support. Let’s take a look at Kirkpatrick in action and see what you guys think.
The first thing that jumps out when watching Kirkpatrick is just how long he is. He has learned how to use his length to his advantage in the league as well. Here he is matched up with a big physical receiver in Brandon Marshall, but you can see how he is able to use his length to bother Marshall at the catch point.
Here is another example of him using his length. He is beat on this route, but is able to get back in the play (with an assist from a Big Ben underthrow) and use his length to break up a touchdown.
Kirkpatrick shows good ability to make plays on the ball when he’s got good position. He does a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield (part of that is due to the Bengals using him almost exclusively in off coverage, but we will get to that a bit later). Here he stays on top of Sammie Coates’ route and then turn in to the wide receiver to make the pick.
Here you see Kirkpatrick covering a tight end in Jason Witten. Witten is a famously good route runner and he turns Kirkpatrick around here, but Dre is able to quickly recover and make a play on the ball. This isn’t how you would draw it up, but it’s effective nonetheless.
That was an example where he bit on a fake and it worked out. Here is one where it didn’t work out. Here he looks like he just gets confused as to what he wants to do. He turns his hips outside with just a tiny head fake from the receiver and is forced to commit DPI to slow him down enough to prevent a touchdown.
His biggest issues, which showed up particularly in 2015, were mental lapses. Here you can see the rest of his secondary is playing Cover 3 and he’s playing Cover 2 which leads to a blown coverage and an easy touchdown. This happened a lot in 2015, but seemed to be cleaned up considerably in 2016.
Kirkpatrick is a good NFL corner which automatically makes him an upgrade over what we’ve currently got on the roster. He’s not perfect. The mental breakdowns and missed tackling woes that plagued him early in his career have improved, but are not gone altogether. He makes up for some of that with his length and good body control when making plays on the ball. Cincinnati played mostly Cover 2 and Cover 3 schemes during his time there and almost never asked Kirkpatrick to jump up in to press man coverage so there isn’t much on tape for him there. That probably plays to his strengths since I don’t think he would hold up against bigger receivers in press due to his slight frame.
I think Kirkpatrick can be a #1 corner, but would be much better suited in the #2 role. He likely will be on the next tier of free agent corners behind Bouye and Gilmore. I could see him getting close to $12M per year though since the market for corners is turning in to a seller’s market pretty quickly. Kirkpatrick is a guy who has improved from year to year throughout his career and may be ready to turn the corner, but that could also be read as him playing for a contract in 2016. If Bouye re-signs with Houston before March 9th (which I wouldn’t understand at this point since he stands to make a killing on the open market), I could see Kirkpatrick being a soft landing place for some of the Titans free agent dollars. I would prefer Gilmore, Ryan, and maybe even Claiborne to Kirkpatrick.
What do you guys think?
Previously covered Free Agents in this series:
Bubble Boys (players on the roster bubble)