The Bengals play Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Co. twice a season. They also have to deal with the Ravens, who have the strong-armed Joe Flacco, the swift Torrey Smith, the tough Anquan Boldin and a good, young TE tandem in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.
The more capable cornerbacks a team can have, the better, especially one in Cincinnati’s position, so the decision to draft Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick No. 17 overall makes sense. The Bengals had some real CB concerns entering this draft, and the 6-1, 186-pound Kirkpatrick is a step toward alleviating those. Their top cover corner, Leon Hall, comes off an Achilles injury. Nate Clements is a solid starter, but he’s entering the final year of his contract. The addition of ex-Texans CB Jason Allen in free agency bolstered the secondary — he has good size and some playmaking abiiity — but the Bengals still looked to be at least one defensive back short, and this was even after signing ex-Cowboy Terence Newman and re-signing Adam Jones.
Jones replaced Hall a season ago and didn’t play especially well. Newman struggled with Dallas in 2011 and was released. They are down-the-depth-chart options.
The Bengals have to hope Kirkpatrick is ready for a bigger role than that in his first NFL season. How he handles the transition to the pro game in the summer bears watching. Kirkpatrick, PFW personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote in PFW’s 2012 Draft Preview, is a “(long-limbed), cocky, aggressive, sticky corner best suited to man short areas in zone coverage. However, his body is not built to handle the physicality of his game and a lack of dependability could limit his ceiling to a difficult-to-manage No. 2. Has some bust potential and will require a demanding positional coach to reach his potential.”
Judging from that take, Kirkpatrick’s durability, physicality and maturity will be key. This much is certain: He’ll have no shortage of veteran competition angling for playing time, too. The good news? He couldn’t have been taught better, having played for Nick Saban at Alabama. What’s more, the Bengals have had a fairly sharp eye for CB talent during Marvin Lewis’ time as head coach. Hall has been a very good pro, as has now-Texan Johnathan Joseph.
You can see where the Bengals were coming from with this selection. Now, let's see if Kirkpatrick can help a secondary that needed a little bit of a lift, especially after Hall left the lineup last season.