Taken with the 151st pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Desmond King was not nearly as touted as many of his peers. Despite his accomplished career at Iowa University in which he was a 2015 consensus All-American, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, and received the Jim Thorpe award (an award bestowed upon the best college football cornerback of the year), scouts and analysts had major doubts about King’s speed and size. One Midwest scout for AFC team had this to say following King’s combine performance:

“You worry about the physical limitations a little bit because teams will find your weaknesses and exploit them. “

Basically, because of his genetics, King was (supposedly) going to be a liability on the field that opposing teams would pick on. His lack of height and recovery speed would make him better fit for a switch to safety. Yes, despite King being one of the most proficient cornerbacks in college football and even winning the “cornerback of the year” award, scouts felt he needed a position switch. Regardless, King was projected to be off the board by the end of the third round.

But then it was fifth round. And “with the 151st pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers select, Desmond King.” And by week two of his rookie season, King found himself as a major contributor to the Chargers defense. Mainly utilized as a slot cornerback, King allowed less than a yard per coverage snap from the slot, was second in pass-rush productivity (for cornerbacks) and finished third run-stop percentage. King also took some special team reps as a return man throughout the season. And once again, this is mere months after he was selected in the fifth round.

As for this season, King has taken on an even more significant role within the Chargers defense/special teams. Continuing his role as one of the leagues top slot cornerbacks, King finished the season with the most coverage stops out of any cornerback, 22, and forced quarterbacks to a 69.7 passer rating when throwing at him in the slot. As for this general stats, below is King’s (defensive) season totals:

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  • 108 tackles
  • Three interceptions
  • 10 passes defended
  • One forced fumble
  • Two fumbles recovered

Now let’s get into King’s impact on the Chargers special teams. For many years, the Chargers have searched far and wide for reliable special teams play. And when they drafted a cornerback out of Iowa who scouts called “too slow”, they weren’t exactly thinking they would be finding a long-term return man. Yet, this season, Desmond King is averaging 23.7 yards per kick return and 13.8 yards per punt return including a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in a comeback win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Rather than running in circles before being tackled for a five-yard loss, King makes one cut at the beginning of his return and commits. Basically, King is the exact opposite of Travis Benjamin in the best possible ways. And if the Chargers are going to make a deep playoff run, they’re going to need King’s playmaking. Whether it be his punt returns, his coverage defense, or his run stoppage, King’s impact is a very underrated, yet critical factor for the Chargers postseason success.

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