OverviewThere was never a doubt that the ever-confident Kirkpatrick could talk the talk, a natural ability he was not bashful about displaying on and off the field since high school. But what makes him special -- albeit even more irritating to opponents -- is Kirkpatrick can back it up with his play.
Only question is, will he?
There are plenty of game tapes that show Kirkpatrick has all the athletic ability, instincts and tenacity to be a great cornerback. Scouts need to watch the tapes because statistics don't tell Kirkpatrick's story. In three seasons he had only three interceptions -- all in 2010 -- but his strength is in how he plays the man more than how he plays the ball.
He denies receivers. He denies them a clean release. He denies them to get separation. And he denies them an opportunity to get the ball. He is physical to the extreme, both in coverage and coming up on run support, where he is perhaps too much of a hitter and not enough of a wrap-up tackler.
"We play a lot of man and zone and off coverage," Kirkpatrick said of Alabama's scheme. "The main thing we really play is man and bump and run but my zone skills I'm happy where I'm at with them."
However, some scouts are concerned about reports that Alabama coach Nick Saban worked to keep Kirkpatrick motivated and there was an arrest, and a dropped charge, involving possession of marijuana only days after Kirkpatrick declared for the 2011 draft. As usual, Kirkpatrick had the last word, via twitter: "For those who doubted: NO CHARGES FILED against me for the marijuana bust in Florida."
"It was me being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Kirkpatrick said at the Scouting Combine. "The guy that left the marijuana in the car turned himself in and didn't want to put me in a bad situation. He signed an affidavit saying that I was unaware of the marijuana being in the car and I was unaware of it."
AnalysisMan Coverage: Possesses prototypical size and strength combination to lock down NFL receivers on the outside. Long arms and attitude give him a chance to be very good in press role. Plays with natural bend and fair foot quickness in his backpedal. Hips are fluid for his size, opens them up quickly out of pedal to keep inside position while running down the sideline. Recovery speed from double-moves and pick plays is more than adequate, does not give much ground trailing on crossing routes. Can be overaggressive landing his punch in press, giving up inside position, losing his balance, or even falling down.
Zone Coverage: Mainly used in man, but flashes playmaking ability in zones, as well. Uses his size and length to close and wrap effectively after the catch. Reads quarterback when playing off, baits him to make the underneath throw then closes to make the interception or a big hit to dislodge ball from receiver. Uses length to knock away touch passes behind him and in front of the safety.
Ball Skills: Strong enough to win jump balls down the sideline or 50-50 balls over the middle. Good hand-eye coordination to knock away passes in front of receivers with off hand. Does not find the ball quickly when receiver turns to look, overruns plays too regularly. Gambles on interceptions instead of securing the tackle.
Run Support: Very physical outside, pushes aside smaller wideouts easily and does not back down from confrontations with larger players. Willing to add himself to piles. Good hustle and chase downfield to help teammates. Typically keeps outside leverage but will get aggressive, leaving the sideline vulnerable. Needs to consistently break down and keep his feet outside or NFL backs will evade him.
Tackling: Flashes pure strength to stop receivers and running backs in their tracks on the outside, should get stronger over time. Likes to throw his shoulder into receivers to force them out of bounds. Resorts to duck-and-swipe when unnecessary, which may work against college ballcarriers but will cause problems at the next level. Used on corner blitzes due to size/speed combination, forces a lot of quick throws. Willing to go for the strip, especially if ballcarrier already engaged. Negates special teams gunners on punts, stays with them with effort, physicality and speed.
Intangibles: Well-liked teammate who got the nickname "Swag" for his quiet but confident demeanor; referred to Texas as not having "swagger" during his college announcement press conference. Likes to talk on the field to teammates and get the crowd involved when at home. Praised for his strong will and work ethic. Won the team's Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award in the spring of 2011.
[ Edited by nickbradley on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:04 AM ]