Desmond King turned a lot of heads during his junior year as a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes. King set the school record for interceptions in a season with eight and went on to win the Jim Thorpe Award, granted to the nation’s top defensive back. Despite being a top-ranked cornerback in 2015, King decided to return to school to get his degree.
Pittsburgh Steelers Should Draft Desmond King
In his four years at Iowa, King recorded 14 interceptions, 263 tackles, and three defensive touchdowns. King’s exceptional zone coverage and above average tackling ability could lead to him transitioning to safety in the future, but for now, he’s listed as a cornerback.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need more depth at the cornerback position. The team signed Coty Sensabaugh, who played for the New York Giants last year after being release by the Los Angeles Rams. Sensabaugh is a good slot cornerback, who will likely be third or fourth on the Steelers depth chart and competing with veteran William Gay. Sensabaugh was a nice addition to the defensive secondary, but he isn’t a proven talent.
Gay is getting older and needs a replacement at the nickel cornerback position. If Sensabaugh isn’t the answer, perhaps Senquez Golson can step up, but he’s had some injury problems. Clearly, the Steelers need some more insurance at the cornerback position and King can help provide just that.
Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns both made some nice improvements last season, but neither are anywhere near considered elite cornerbacks. The Steelers not only need depth at cornerback, but they also need someone to step up and claim the number one slot. Cockrell may have been the most improved player on the Steelers defense last season, but he’s still nowhere near elite status. Burns was the Steelers first round draft pick last year and proved he was worth it. Starting out as the nickel cornerback, Burns earned his way into the second starting cornerback position and ended up tying for the team lead in interceptions with Ryan Shazier.
NFL Combine Statistics
At the NFL Combine, King measured at 5 foot 10 inches and 201 pounds. His arm length was measured at 31 and 1/8 inches, and his hands were measured at 9 and 5/8 inches. King completed 14 reps on the bench press, which isn’t that important for a defensive back. He also registered a 34-inch vertical jump and an 117-inch broad jump. King ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.18 seconds, the 60-yard shuttle in 11.57 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.67 seconds. King didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the Combine but decided to run it at his pro day and recorded a time of 4.52 seconds.
King’s main criticisms have been his lack of size and speed. At 5′ 10″, King is a bit undersized to go up against some of the bigger NFL wide receivers, but it shouldn’t matter all that much if he ends up playing in the slot or at safety. King also relies a little too much on his hands when in coverage and that could get him flagged more when he starts playing in the NFL. Penalties were already a bit of a problem for King in college. He was penalized 11 times over his final two seasons, including five personal fouls.
King is considered a leader and an “iron man.” Over his four years at Iowa, King played in more than 94 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. King is a “ball hawk” and a playmaker, always looking to make a game-changing plays. Steelers fans will be reminded of Troy Polamalu a bit when they see King’s highlights from college. He always seems to be around the ball, and whenever he makes an interception, he does everything he can to make it to the end-zone.
King excels in zone coverage because of his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and jump wide receivers’ routes. He also returned some punts and kickoffs in college, which shows his playmaking ability even with a lack of breakaway speed. King has the hands and jump-ball ability of a wide receiver, which should help make up for his lack of height. King also has decent strength and is a solid tackler, making him an even better fit as a Pittsburgh Steeler. The Steelers should make sure that King continues to suit up in black and yellow.