Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals spent a 2014 first round draft pick on cornerback Darqueze Dennard, a move seen as necessary by many due to the age of Terence Newman and Adam Jones, as well as the health of Leon Hall. The Dennard pick was mostly praised and he is seen as a future starter at one of the corner spots. Hall and Dennard could be a nice pair of corners, but one person who may have something still to say about that is 2012 first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick.
The lead-up to the 2012 NFL Draft for the Bengals was similar to the build to this year’s. Jonathan Joseph was out, and the Bengals needed an influx of talent and youth in the secondary. Kirkpatrick had the length, athleticism, and big-game experience that teams love, and he was taken with the 17th overall selection. Expectations were that he’d work in slowly, and ideally be ready to start in a couple of seasons. Two years have now passes, and many fans, and experts, have already given up on him.
Kirkpatrick has had many setbacks in his young career. It’s expected that cornerbacks will take time to develop, but injuries have severely limited his ability to show that he’s progressing. His first season found him barely making his way onto the field at all, and though his 2013 season was a little more successful, he has begun to be mentioned along with the dreaded “bust” label.
The 2014 season is big for Kirkpatrick. With Newman and Jones both another year older, and Dennard likely not getting tons of playing time, he could be counted on by coaches to be featured more in the rotation. He’s saying all the right things, and appears to be holding up well under the weight of fan expectations. Time will tell if he was the right pick in 2012, but he’s confident. Another year without progress will likely result in fans giving up on him, and possibly the team as well, but for now Kirkpatrick is ready. He’s talented enough to succeed, and seems driven to fulfill all that was expected of him when he was drafted.