King has middling NFL Combine showing while other DBs flourish

Mark Emmert

Desmond King may have cost himself some valuable positioning in the NFL Draft by returning to play cornerback at Iowa in his senior season.

The Detroit native won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top cornerback after his junior year and was projected as a potential first-round choice if he’d entered the NFL Draft that year.

Now, after a surprisingly unimpressive performance at the Senior Bowl and an NFL Scouting Combine appearance that was adequate but not showy, King may be slipping into the third round of the April 27-29 draft.

Iowa defensive back Desmond King performed at the NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis.

That’s according to Josh Liskiewitz, the Big Ten Conference scouting analyst for Pro Football Focus.

It’s not just that King is on the small side, at 5-foot-10, 201 pounds. It’s because this year’s draft class is historically strong at defensive back. Liskiewitz said there are 12 cornerbacks besides King who will grade well enough to be drafted in the first round, though not all will. Add another six or seven safeties good enough to merit first-round consideration, and King has his work cut out for him.

“He probably would have gone higher in last year’s draft,” Liskiewitz said of King, who ran through every drill but the 40-yard dash Monday at the combine in Indianapolis. “He tested fine. I’m sure he would have been OK in the 40 if he’d been able to run it. I don’t think he would have blown the doors off.

“But this class is just way too stacked.”

King suffered an abdominal strain during training leading up to the combine but told reporters he plans to run the 40 during Iowa’s Pro Day later this month.

His numbers in the other drills were mainly unremarkable when compared to the other defensive backs. King bench-pressed 225 pounds 14 times, had a 34-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot, 9-inch broad jump, ran 4.18 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.57 in the 60-yard shuttle. His best showing was in the three-cone drill, where his 6.67-second time was third-best among his position group.

Meanwhile, players like Ahkello Witherspoon of Colorado and Kevin King of Washington flourished at the combine.

“Guys that weren’t necessarily on the radar of the national media before were running 40s in the 4.4s and jumping out of the building,” Liskiewitz said. “When you show that kind of athleticism and it’s a deep class, those things are going to be tiebreakers.”

Liskiewitz still thinks King can have a lengthy NFL career as a starter, however. His productivity at Iowa suggests so.

Some NFL team will recognize that as well, and King will probably go in the late second or third round of the draft, Liskiewitz said.

“Every team’s going to have a different flavor to like,” Liskiewitz said. “Every team is going to have a completely different board.”