The Denver Broncos announced today that they have released veteran cornerback André Goodman with only two weeks until the 2012 NFL Draft. Does this signal that the Broncos will be positioning themselves to draft a top corner in this year's draft?
The Broncos were already deep at cornerback, but were carved up by multiple high-octane offenses last season. The New England Patriots (twice), Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders all passed for over 300 yards and put more than 30 points on the board against the Broncos in 2011.
The aging Goodman looks to be a casualty of some of the Broncos' struggles in the secondary, as well as the addition of the youthful Tracy Porter in free agency.
Goodman didn't have a terrible year statistically, with two interceptions and 49 total tackles. However, there were times throughout the season that he had blown coverage or was out of position, leading to huge plays by opponents.
It isn't the end of the world for Goodman, who may be signed by a team in need of depth at corner in the coming weeks to a one-year contract.
The bigger development as far as I am concerned is the potential for Denver to add a cornerback as a top pick, maybe with their No. 1 draft choice.
The Denver Post's Jeff Legwold sees Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick as a potential fit for Denver with their first-round selection. Kirkpatrick is listed by most as one of the top cornerbacks in this draft, along with LSU's Morris Claiborne, who could be a top-10 pick this year.
Kirkpatrick is huge for a cornerback. He measures 6'1" and weighs 186 pounds. Kirkpatrick was a shutdown corner at Alabama, playing in a very tough SEC. He recorded 30 tackles (24 solo) with nine passes deflected and two forced fumbles in 2011. However, some are knocking him because he didn't record a single interception.
What is the Broncos' top priority in the 2012 draft?
There are some off-field concerns after an arrest for marijuana possession in January 2012. The Alabama teammate who was in the car with him signed an affidavit stating that the marijuana wasn't Kirkpatrick's and that Kirkpatrick was unaware that marijuana had been purchased. This incident, however, has affected his draft stock, which seems to have declined since the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game, also in January.
Some believe that Kirkpatrick could be around late in the first round, with the Broncos in a position to snatch him. The incident was Kirkpatrick's only off-field altercation, and it appears to be an isolated occurrence.
Another top CB who may be within the Broncos' reach at the 25th overall draft pick in the first round is Stephon Gilmore, who has seen his stock leapfrog both Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has a laundry list of character concerns and incidents that became such a distraction that Florida head coach Will Muschamp had to kick him off the team.
Gilmore had an amazing NFL Combine, running speedy 40-time and impressing in the drills. He's slightly smaller than Kirkpatrick at 6'0" and 190 pounds, but that shouldn't keep him from being a force in the NFL next year.
Gilmore was a fellow SEC player at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier. Gilmore had an up and down season in 2011. He had 46 tackles and four picks. He also deflected seven passes and forced a fumble. He often struggled, however, to remain consistent, and he surrendered some big plays on blown coverage. He is a rising talent who is more raw than Kirkpatrick or Claiborne, but it's possible that his ceiling may be higher as well.
Ultimately, Goodman was unlikely to be in Denver in 2012 after the Broncos paid handsomely for his replacement, Porter, in free agency. But to draft a cornerback in the first round—someone who can be a difference-maker on the defense in an NFL game that is becoming more and more reliant on the pass—would be a wise move for the Broncos. If a top talent like Kirkpatrick falls to them at No. 25, I would support that move.