INDIANAPOLIS — Desmond King faced 24 questions in barely 11 minutes and nearly a third dealt with what position he will play in the NFL.
King, a two-time All-American cornerback at Iowa, met Sunday with several team officials at the NFL combine. Their first question was the same as those King received from reporters.
“Basically what position would I prefer to play,” King said. “My answer to that is feel like I can play any position in the secondary. Only because of the versatility that I have and the ability to make plays.”
King tied a school record with eight interceptions in 2015 and was named a consensus All-American and the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back. Instead of entering the draft, King elected to return as a senior. He picked off three passes and earned second-team All-America honors as both a defensive back and return specialist.
But what position he’ll play at the next level remains undecided.
“The big question is what kind of position do I want to play, whether it’s corner, nickel or safety,” King said. “To me, I just felt like the versatility that I have and my ability, I feel like I can play any position in the secondary. That’s a good thing. That’s a plus for me and a positive asset for me.”
King’s size (5-foot-10, 201 pounds) and frame make him a natural candidate to play inside. He’s got good coverage skills, and works well in zone coverage. That’s where he projects best. He was one of the nation’s most efficient tackling cornerbacks. He is powerful and was durable for the Hawkeyes. King set Iowa’s career starts record with 51 and played in a school-record 53 games.
“You don’t see a lot of corners out there making a lot of tackles and being aggressive in the run,” King said. “That’s one thing in the Big Ten — every Big Ten team runs the ball. They’re going to force your secondary to come make plays on the run and have good fits. At Iowa, that’s what we’re built to do, is to make plays to the ball.”
NFL.com already lists King as a safety. NFL scouting guru Gil Brandt sees him there as well.
“I think King’s a safety and not a corner,” Brandt said.
If that’s true, that’s not a detriment. King registered 14 career interceptions at Iowa. When the Hawkeyes shifted to nickel coverage, King moved inside. He scored defensive touchdowns in each of his final three seasons.
“He’s a ball hawk. He’s a playmaker. Grade-A,” said Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who grew up with King in Detroit. “He can play any position in that defensive backfield, and that’s what he’s been doing his whole life. Playing the ball, getting the ball out and scoring when he gets the ball. That’s definitely one thing you can expect from him getting that ball and that’s the main focus on defense, getting the ball back.”
While not directly stating a preference, King seemed more intrigued with playing nickel. NFL teams use five and six defensive backs as a base defense.
“I feel like playing nickel it gives you both sides of playing the whole defense,” King said. “You play the run, have run fits, and also go out and cover and play zone coverages as well.”
King’s speed remains a question mark for his position, one for which he won’t have an answer this weekend. With a lower abdominal strain, he won’t run in the 40-yard dash on Monday. He will compete in all of the agility drills, however. He plans to compete in the 40 at Iowa’s Pro Day, which takes place later this month.