Summary: Kirkpatrick was a defensive force for the Alabama Crimson Tide over the past few seasons. He was a key cog in one of the best defenses in college football and was extremely effective going against the best of the SEC. Kirkpatrick is a big, physical man corner who is a reliable defender. Alabama was able to put Kirkpatrick in man coverage on an island and trust that he would shut down his receiver. Kirkpatrick is a hard hitter who pushes receivers around and contributes tough run defense on the perimeter.
Kirkpatrick saw his first season of extensive playing time as a sophomore. He broke into the lineup for the defending national champions and recorded a fine debut season in the SEC. In 2010, he had 53 tackles with three interceptions and seven passes broken up. Kirkpatrick did not get tested very much as a junior. He had tight coverage all season and teams rarely threw his direction. As a result, he did not snag an interception in his final collegiate campaign. Kirkpatrick performed very well against LSU in their two meetings, shutting down wide receiver Rueben Randle on both occasions. Randle had two catches for 19 yards in the first game and three receptions for 13 yards in the rematch.
Kirkpatrick did not play well against Florida, as he was beat in man coverage for a 65-yard touchdown by speedy wide out Andre Debose. Debose did the same thing to LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Kirkpatrick had a strong game against Arkansas, however. He allowed a touchdown but it was a miraculous circus catch while he had tight coverage. Overall, Kirkpatrick was a superb cover corner in 2011, but he was rarely tested by offenses.
Shortly after declaring for the 2012 NFL Draft in January, Kirkpatrick was arrested. However, the charges, for pot possession, were dropped. The marijuana was allegedly owned by a friend who was in the car with him. Having the charges dropped definitely helps Kirkpatrick, but NFL teams will still question his decision making and his off-the-field associations.
Kirkpatrick looks like an NFL man corner who can be expected to match up on big receivers and limit their effectiveness. He has the speed to run with receivers in their routes and ideal size to prevent completions. Kirkpatrick is an excellent red-zone defender who won't be able to be targeted on fade passes. Claiborne is rated ahead of Kirkpatrick, and some slot Stephon Gilmore ahead as well. Still, Kirkpatrick looks very likely to be a top-20 pick on Draft Day.
Player Comparison: Charles Tillman. Kirkpatrick's game is similar to the Bears' Pro Bowl cornerback. They are nearly identical in their measurements, as Tillman checks in at 6-foot-2, 198-pounds. Tillman is a strong zone corner who also is effective in man coverage. Big receivers are stymied by Tillman, and he is a physical defender who is a tough hitter. Kirkpatrick should turn into a reliable difference-maker like Tillman has been for Chicago.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Dallas, Cincinnati, Chicago, Tennessee, Green Bay, New England
There are a number of teams that are considering Kirkpatrick, and he is going on a lot of pre-draft visits. The Buccaneers are interested in him and are bringing him in for a meeting. If they miss out on Claiborne, they may target Kirkpatrick. The Rams and Jaguars both have needs at corner and could consider Kirkpatrick.
The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr in free agency, but some believe they still could target a corner in the first round. Kirkpatrick is great scheme fit in their 3-4 defense. Cincinnati has a big need at corner and it seems that Kirkpatrick is a heavy favorite to be the Bengals' pick at No. 17. In the back end of the top 20, the Bears and Titans would consider him.
If the character concerns push him deep into the first round, the Packers and Patriots could end his fall. Both teams could use a corner, and he is a great scheme fit for their defenses. However, it would be a real surprise if Kirkpatrick got out of the top 20.