I'm guessing that nobody will be surprised to learn that cornerback is a position of need for the Cowboys this year. The Cowboys must address the cornerback situation this offseason and will likely do so both in free agency and the draft.
News reached us yesterday via the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that free agent CB will visit with the Cowboys this week, perhaps as early as today, after a trip to Kansas City yesterday. The Cowboys don't usually get active in free agency this early in the process, and may just be doing some due diligence here. But Routt's Oakland connection to Rob Ryan may be a significant factor, and at the very least the Cowboys are doing their homework and preparing for all possibilities.
On the draft front, SB Nation released its latest 2012 NFL mock draft yesterday and Ryan van Bibber predictably has the Cowboys taking a cornerback, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. Here's his rationale:
Kirkpatrick might not fall this far. Dallas could trade up to draft him, or selectinstead. In our alternate universe, they draft Kirkpatrick. Had Rob Ryan had a corner of this caliber in 2011, they might have been the NFC East champions.
This draft's class of cornerbacks reportedly runs deep, and after the break we look a little closer at the 2012 cornerback class and how a selection of draft experts ranks the top prospects.
- Sports Illustrated draft guy Tony Pauline believes there are only two true first-round talents at cornerback, LSU's Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick. In his latest rankings, only those two players warrant a first-round selection.
- Russ Lande from the SportingNews also has Claiborne and Kirkpatrick as the top two prospects in his list of Top 50 prospects and
- The National Football Post's Wes Bunting has Kirkpatrick ranked slightly ahead of Janoris Jenkins in his positional rankings, but while he has Kirkpatrick going at number seven in his latest mock draft, he has Jenkins dropping below South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore at the bottom of the first round.
- The CBSSports draft prospect rankings also have Claiborne, Kirkpatrick and Jenkins going 1-2-3.
- Odd man out in this collection is the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, who only ranks Kirkpatrick as the fifth corner in his positional rankings.
Every one of the five draft analysts above ranks their prospects a little differently, but the table below shows roughly which cornerbacks each of the analysts expect to be available in what order in the top 50 picks.
|SI.com - Pauline||Sportingnews - Lande||NFP - Bunting||CBSSports||NFL - Mayock|
|2-3||Boykin||- -||- -||47||Minnifield||47||Johnson||- -||- -|
|2-3||Hoyley||- -||- -||48||Hayward||- -||- -||- -||- -|
The Cowboys have the 14th and 45th pick. They'll have their choice of CBs in both spots, but will they go for a CB in the first round?
Kirkpatrick is an intriguing prospect for the Cowboys. We'll have to wait for the Combine to see whether these rankings stay as they are, but for now the consensus has Kirkpatrick as easily the second best corner in the draft, and he could be available when the Cowboys are on the clock.
Ultimately though, Kirkpatrick is hard to assess properly. He certainly has the talent and size to warrant his high draft stock, but his recent arrest for possessin' di ganja throws up a couple of questions, although all charges were later dropped. However, if the Cowboys choose to pass on Kirkpatrick due to off-field concerns, they probably won't have Janoris Jenkins on their draft board either. In that case, with Claiborne clearly out of reach, the Cowboys would not select a corner in the first round.
For now, we'll assume that Kirkpatrick is still penciled in on the Cowboys draft board. And if he does indeed fall to number 14, the Cowboys will be hard pressed to pass him up. Because for the Cowboys, as Ryan van Bibber notes, the difference between making the playoffs and staying at home last season may indeed have been one cornerback.