IOWA CITY, Iowa — Desmond King became the 12th Iowa defensive back drafted in the Kirk Ferentz era when the Los Angeles Chargers selected him in the fifth round Saturday morning.
King, the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner and an All-American the last two years, was taken No. 151 overall, five picks after former Iowa TE George Kittle was taken by the 49ers.
King becomes the first Iowa defensive back taken in the draft since Micah Hyde in 2013.
While some scouts soured on King because of his speed, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock praised the cornerback for what he could do.
“Desmond King is a football player, and that sounds stupid, but that’s what I hear most from coaches and that’s what I believe,” Mayock said. “I don’t care as much for what he runs; I just know that’s he either going to play outside corner on a zone team, a cover-2 team. He can play a little bit of nickel. I think he’s going to be a free safety. He had 8 interceptions two years ago. He’s got good ball skills, he’s tough, he’s smart. He comes from that Iowa pedigree, which I also like. I think he’s going to be fine and play in the league for a lot of years.”
At Iowa, King was one of the most decorated athletes in school history. He started a school-record 51 games and played in two others. He intercepted 14 passes to tie for fourth in program history. King tied a school record with 8 interceptions in 2015 and also tied the Iowa mark by returning 3 interceptions for touchdowns in his career. King was a first-team all-Big Ten performer in each of his last two seasons.
“He’s a ball hawk. He’s a playmaker. Grade A,” said Michigan cornerback and childhood friend Jourdan Lewis about King. “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.”
Despite his accolades, King’s rankings were all over the place. Before the draft, CBSSports ranked King 60th overall and third among safeties. ESPN Scouts Inc. kept King at cornerback and slotted him 82nd overall and 13th among corners. Ourlads Scouting Services projected King to the Eagles in the second round (43rd overall). ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked King 12th among cornerbacks but ranks him fifth among punt returners. Pro Football Focus, which tracked King as missing only 11 tackles in his last 176 efforts, projected him to Buffalo with the 44th pick (second round) while ranking him as the 14th-best cornerback prospect (64th overall).
Dan Shonka of Ourlads Scouting Services wrote King “can play both cornerback and safety, depending on a ball club’s defensive scheme. Has good foot control in press situations. Fluid hips and the ability to match stride lengths in trail technique. … A top notch tackler. Very good ball skills with the ability to track and locate the ball. Good hands to pluck ball at the high point. Has short arms and questionable long speed.”