Iowa senior corner Desmond King entered the 2016 season as one of college football’s more highly recognized defensive backs. King surprised many by deciding to return for a senior season with the Hawkeyes instead of entering the 2015 NFL draft.
Apparently, King reached out to the NFL College Advisory Committee, and when he did not receive a first round grade back from them that made the decision to return to Iowa City an easy one.
King, a four-year starter, is coming off a huge junior campaign that saw him lead the Big-Ten with eight interceptions (tying a school record) to go along with 72 tackles and 13 passes broken up. He was named the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner as well as a Consensus All-American.
King is an aggressive and physical cornerback who despite lacking ideal size has no problem mixing it up with anyone on the field. He has adequate strength as he displays when he jams a receiver at the line of scrimmage or when he is able to easily shed would be blockers downfield. He possesses terrific instincts and awareness while in coverage. His ability to quickly locate the ball, while in coverage, allows him to get his hands and body in position to make a play on it.
King also is good at reading the quarterback in the pocket and anticipating where he will be throwing the ball. Which is why often times King will be seen releasing or leaving his man entirely and flowing to the area in which the ball was thrown to.
King lines up in a balanced stance opposite the receiver, is smooth in his backpedal, and can quickly open his hips post snap and play a trail technique. With the Hawkeyes, King was lined up as both an outside corner as well as inside to cover the slot.
He possesses terrific ball skills and is constantly able to get his hands on the ball to make a play. He has 12 interceptions to go along with 32 passes defensed (so far) in his career.
King is a competitor out on the field and that can be seen in the way he helps defend the run.
He’s aggressive in coming downhill and either attacking the ball carrier or laying a shoulder into a blockers chest to help set up a hard edge trying to funnel the play flow back inside to his teammates. He is a sure-tackler, both at the line of scrimmage or in the open field, who prefers to go low and wrap up the runner or receiver by their legs.
On the flip-side, what King lacks is the aforementioned size and play speed that NFL teams prefer in their corners. While he is listed at 5-foot-11 (official school listing) he looks to be shorter than that. King also is not a quick-twitch athlete and lacks elite speed and foot quickness. This is especially noticeable in coverage as he is unable to keep up with the faster receivers and has trouble mirroring downfield. If King does not get in a good jam at the line, when lined up in press coverage, to either slowdown or alter a receivers get off, he generally gets beaten and loses leverage. He is unable to open up and transition quick enough to keep pace, and will find himself trailing trying to play catch up.
King is probably best suited to play in a zone-based defense as a boundary corner where he can utilize his instincts, physicality, and ball skills. His keen sense along with the ability to quickly diagnose and make plays on the ball will allow him to be an immediate contributor as a rookie.
Overall, King is a decorated collegiate corner who while lacking ideal size and speed, makes up for it with his high football character and competitiveness. He is an experienced four-year starter with ball hawking skills who if utilized properly can develop into a reliable defensive starter.