Kirkpatrick is a physical corner full of attitude

April 10, 2012

The following is the eighth in a series of draft profiles for potential 1st and 2nd round picks for the Dallas Cowboys.  These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.

Dre Kirkpatrick
6'2, 186
40 time: 4.52, Bench Press: Did not lift
October 26, 1989

The NFL's evolution is constant, and it is up to its teams to keep up and understand what is happening.  The league is no longer a league where you must run the ball and dominate the line of scrimmage.  Some teams run fewer than 10 plays all game long out of a "run formation" where they would employ a fullback.  Why use a fullback when you can get another Tight End or Wide Receiver who can run and catch and stretch a defense?  And when figuring out positions for players, why make things easy on the defense when we should be putting our best athletes at WR?  Now days, NFL receivers are as tall and as athletic as ever, and it is only going in one direction.  Calvin Johnson is 6'5 and weighs 240.  He also runs a 4.35 and has a 42" vertical leap.  He is an extreme case, even Dez Bryant at 6'2, 220 or Hakeem Nicks at 6'1, 220 play such a physical style of receiver that your corners can become overpowered.

So what do you do if your corners are all 5'10?  And what do you do if they all are under 200 pounds?  You can get bullied out on the perimeter.  Especially if your team of undersized corners (Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick) as a group do not consist of overly physical skill sets.  In fact, Newman has always been a reluctant tackler and Mike Jenkins has actually been caught on film a number of times clearly avoiding contact.  And we wonder why the Cowboys are not always thought of as a physical team.

They knew it and that is why Brandon Carr will not need a loan anytime soon after the Cowboys acquired their first 6'0 corner - since Anthony Henry left in 2008 - for the princely sum of $50 million dollars.  He will replace Newman and hopefully help the Cowboys to not lose the physical battle out on the perimeter.

But, now, they have a chance to get another big corner, at a much lesser cost.  Last year's #14 pick (Robert Quinn) was given 5 years at under $10 million.

Dre Kirkpatrick is about as physical a corner as you will ever see at the college level.  He certainly has no regard for safety as he throws hits that bring the stadium to its feet and certainly celebrates contact.  Kirkpatrick is the type of corner that those of us who celebrate Antoine Winfield, Cortland Finnegan, or Charles Woodson admire.  A corner that is ready to fight.  And a corner who will not be scared of you.  At 6'1, 186, his frame is lanky and impressive, but it also tells you that he can bulk up 10 pounds rather easily in his first few seasons and add some sturdiness to that frame.

Alabama plays a great deal of zone, and just like when we look at other players on this Alabama defense, we are left to wonder how much of their play and especially their swagger is dependent on A) being on a unit that is flat-out loaded with NFL prospects and B) playing many offenses where the secondary doesn't have to worry about a passing QB slicing them up.  There is just nothing like NFL passing games to be found in the SEC or college football in general most of the time.  And so, Kirkpatrick, like Mark Barron, are playing downhill, looking into the backfield because they know that 8 or 9 times out of 10, the play is either a run or an underneath pass which will allow for really aggressive closes by a physical DB and could end in a highlight hit.

He is big and he is brave.  Despite loving it, I will not completely endorse that type of play because it puts a lot of strain on the body.  And a hurt corner back cannot help you.  Those collisions take their toll on the hitter as much as the target, and when you are 22, your body can do things that will not be true in 5 years.  Can his skinny frame continue to drop bombs on receivers and will he be able to hold up?

The other concern that is in your head about a cornerback who does not have amazing speed would be this:  Will he be beaten over the top?  And if he is, will his swagger disappear?  Maybe his best attribute is that he exudes confidence and a desire to battle over there on that flank, and if he gets torched a few times (like everyone will in the NFL) will he lose that edge?  Mike Jenkins is a player who proved that defeat can get in his head, and that makes him lose much of his appeal.  Will Kirkpatrick still be Dre when he is having a rough day?

It should be noted that there was an incident in January that was thrown out of court for a marijuana charge that ended up on his friend's record, and when that happens, every team looks hard at the type of person he is before drafting him.  I assume the Cowboys have done their homework here, and do not seem bothered as he has been invited to Valley Ranch for a visit. 

He is a big, physical corner who is quite useful in today's NFL.  His personality makes him look like a ready-made corner who is plenty happy to challenge.  He doesn't lack for confidence, and he will go in the first round, it appears, around where Dallas will select.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test:

Vs Arkansas

In this Arkansas game you can see exceptional swagger and a corner who is always looking into the backfield.  He cannot wait to go downhill towards a screen or a running play.  He seems to know there is little chance that there is a ball going over his head - which actually did happen for a Touchdown.  He is so aggressive and his tackling looks phenomenal for a corner. 

Vs Penn State

Against Penn State, you can see his willingness to tackle translating into Penn State fumbles.  Also, his ability to play zone or press-man is obvious here.  He is a physical corner who will take penalties for having his hands on receivers, but there is clearly a difference between the college game and what you can get away with in the NFL.  His game sure looks ready for Sundays. 

And then this clip, which is bizarre to say the least as Dre Kirkpatrick selects what college he will go to with an elaborate presentation.

The Case For Taking Dre Kirkpatrick at No. 14: In this day and age of 3 WR formations being so common and playing in the NFC East, there is no question that a corner is always a fine idea.  Mike Jenkins is on the final year of his rookie deal and one would expect that the final cost of an extension could be as much as $40-$50 million dollars (depending on his performance this year).  Would it not make some sense to fill his hole before it is made and grab a corner who will reduce your cost on the edge to compensate for what you are spending on Carr?  He is a premium player at a premium position and most importantly, he appears to like to tackle.  I think the Cowboys could feel great about their corner position if they had Kirkpatrick and Carr on the edges for the next 5 years.  Big and physical and press-man coverage would really enhance your pass rush.

The Case Against Taking Dre Kirkpatrick at 14: The argument against it is that you already have 3 corners who should be good enough to get you by this year.  Too many bigger needs (literally) on the defense up front and even safety.  His top end speed and lack of real recovery jets would bother you against the smallish receiver that Philadelphia seems to always employ.  And would he play the same way after Eli Manning or Jay Cutler burn him on a play action fake?  Or would he lose that aggressive posture and start to fall into the "off and soft" posture that Newman suffered from the last several seasons?  If you are looking for a Jenkins replacement, wouldn't it be smarter to snag a corner in rounds 2 or 3 if you believe this is a rather deep corner crop?

He certainly fits a very tempting profile, but my first instinct is that the Cowboys will have other ideas at No. 14.

Previous Profiles:

• Fletcher
Cox - Mississippi State

• Michael
Brockers - LSU

• Quinton
Coples - UNC

• David
DeCastro - Stanford

• Melvin
Ingram - South Carolina

• Courtney
Upshaw - Alabama