NFL draft profile: No. 49 — Iowa DB Desmond King, smart and instinctive ballhawk

Iowa CB-S Desmond King
5-10, 201 pounds

Key stat: Intercepted 29 passes in high school, a Michigan state record, and added 14 the past three seasons at Iowa.

The skinny: Decorated corner won a slew of awards following the 2015 season in which he intercepted eight passes, including the Jim Thorpe Award and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and was named Consensus All-American and First Team All Big Ten. But King opted to return to Iowa City after hearing lower-than-expected grades from the NFL’s underclassmen advisory board. He had a strong 2016 season, being named First Team All-Big Ten again, but didn’t get as much attention with the Hawkeyes falling from 12-2 to 8-5.

Iowa’s Desmond King, right, struggled with East Carolina’s Zay Jones, left, at the Senior Bowl. (AP)
Iowa’s Desmond King, right, struggled with East Carolina’s Zay Jones, left, at the Senior Bowl. (AP)

But King had another strong season on defense, as well as on special teams. The past two seasons, he has been one of the Big Ten’s better returners on both punts (11.7 average) and kickoffs (27.5 average).

Best-suited destination: Teams that mix coverages (but perhaps lean toward more zone) might value King’s intelligence and ball skills more than those who place more value in physical traits. His stamina — seldom coming off the field on defense and playing extensively on special teams — also make him attractive to teams that ask a lot of their players, both physically and mentally. Some scouts view him as a corner, others feel safety will be his NFL position. Teams such as the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints appear to be good fits for a player such as King.

Upside: Although he is not the most physically gifted DB in the draft, his rare nose for the ball, versatility, four years of college starting experience, recognition of pass concepts and special-teams value make him a very safe pick. It’s hard to imagine him completely flopping in the NFL, even with some trouble against much bigger or faster opponents in single coverage. King made an instant impact as freshman and is regarded by NFL teams as having a “pro-ready” mentality and work ethic. The Hawkeyes coaches vouch for both traits to no end. Even though many opponents this past season opted not to test him, King still found ways to impact games and improved his tackling form. He’s also sneaky good with the ball in his hands, both on returns and interceptions (career average of 16.5 return yards, three TDs).

Downside: Foot speed is a worry for scouts, hence the possible safety projection. King’s short arms (31 inches) don’t help, and his low combine bench total (14 reps) likely make him a less-than-desirable press-coverage candidate. He might never be more than a No. 2 corner in some teams’ eyes, despite the smarts and production. Handsy, grabby cover man who needs technique adjustment or he’s going to be a flag magnet. King’s college return numbers were strong, but lacking that extra gear could put him more in the serviceable category for NFL return duty. King did not run a 40-yard dash at the NFL combine because of an ab strain and hopes to run at his pro day. Good tackler but not a hitter, per se. This being one of the deeper drafts at corner in recent memory could push him down farther than expected in a typical year.

Scouting hot take: “He struggled against the East Carolina kid [Zay Jones] in practice [at the Senior Bowl]. He played well against Michigan, I was at that game. His only real ‘plus’ trait is his instincts. I don’t think he’d fit in our system great, but he’ll be good for someone. He probably falls to the second [round] to a zone team, I’d guess.” — NFC scout

Player comp: Logan Ryan

Expected draft range: Top 75 pick but as high as top 40

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Look who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!