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Lions draft prospect of the day: Kalen King, CB, Penn State

The Lions Draft Prospect of the Day is an interesting case of a player coming off a down year but still hoping to prove he’s capable of being a first-round player he was once touted to be.

The focus for prospects of the day is on players who should hold some appeal to the Lions in the draft, with a focus on the more likely positions the team will be targeting. Outside cornerbacks, defensive linemen, interior offensive linemen, some wide receivers and offensive tackles figure to appear along the path to April’s draft. Not all of the players will be top-100 prospects, either.

Kalen King, CB, Penn State

Height: 5-foot-11 1/4

Weight: 191 pounds (measured at NFL Scouting Combine)

King was a high school standout in his hometown of Detroit, heading from Cass Tech HS to Penn State. He played right away in 2021 and expanded into a starting role in the subsequent seasons. Playing mostly outside (over 85%) in Penn State’s primarily man coverage in a base 4-2-5 defense, King had an outstanding 2022 season. His strong cover skills and ability to make plays on the ball (18 PDs, 3 INTs) led King to be featured in most preseason mock drafts as a first-rounder like running mate Joey Porter Jr.

He did not live up to the billing in 2023. Despite playing behind a defensive front that generated outstanding pressure levels, King’s play fell off considerably. The 21-year-old didn’t help himself with a lackluster Senior Bowl week and mediocre athletic testing numbers at the combine.

Which is the true Kalen King and when does he get drafted?

What I like

  • Strong ball skills and can make the contested interception

  • Good short-area burst to close on the receiver and/or the ball

  • Can be physical at the line and uses his play strength well

  • Quick to react and attack when plays aren’t directed his way

  • Has better play speed than timed speed, especially in a straight line

  • Likes to hit and will initiate tackles in the run game

  • Played with an effusive confidence to his game in 2022

  • Pretty effective at shedding blocks and not getting taken out of the way on run plays and run-after-catch situations

What worries me going into the NFL

  • Slow-footed and cumbersome out of transitions

  • Poor recovery athleticism for the position

  • Has to downshift to make lateral movement and match receivers who cut or break

  • Got grabbier down the field the longer he played in college

  • Takes false steps and needs a gather step to switch from his backpedal to breaking forward

  • Fails to wrap as a tackler too often

  • Average length and middle-of-the-road overall athletic testing that shows on tape and isn’t likely to improve

  • Really struggled when facing future NFL wideouts in 2023

Best game I watched: Utah (2022 bowl game)

Worst game I watched: Ohio State

Overall

King is frustrating to evaluate as a prospect because even when he’s playing poorly, there are still signs that he’s capable of being coached and schemed into a better player. Likewise, even at his best, there are always some technical points to quibble with in his greatness. His 2022 tape says he is a top-50 draft pick with the potential to start in a year or two. His 2023 tape says he’ll spend his rookie year on the practice squad as a late Day 3 flyer.

For the Lions, he does check boxes for size, ball production, tenacity and football IQ. This current Lions regime has shown they will take chances on prospects that couldn’t finish strong in college (Onwuzurike, Hooker, Paschal), and King’s 2022 play is tough to ignore. Based on combine buzz, King probably gets drafted in the early part of Day 3. If the Lions haven’t already selected a CB by that point, King would not be a surprising pick to return to his hometown.

 

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire