No position group on the Green Bay Packers disappointed more in 2017 than the cornerbacks. It makes sense then that general manager Ted Thompson used his first selection in the 2017 NFL Draft on Washington's Kevin King, a player with the position to transform the unit.
From a physical perspective, King possesses just about every tool to succeed as a corner. His 6-foot-3 frame has drawn comparisons to Seattle Seahawks cover man Richard Sherman, but King's athleticism actually puts him more in line with players like Stephon Gilmore and Patrick Peterson. At the NFL Scouting Combine, King delivered a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, a 6.56-second 3-cone, and a 39 ½-inch vertical, all among the best scores among defensive backs. Those tools, if molded correctly, could manifest in top-tier corner play.
But therein lies the issue. King's technique remains unrefined coming out of Washington. Like former Packers corner Sam Shields, he too often gets caught peeking into the backfield at the snap, allowing receivers to get behind him. While King has the recovery speed to make up for some of those mistakes, the margin for error decreases significantly at the NFL level.
In most instances, King wouldn’t start as a rookie, at least not until later in the season. However, the Packers’ lack of proven depth at corner could force him onto the field far sooner. As such, his performance could fluctuate radically during the upcoming season.
At present, King does excel in some areas. Few collegiate cornerbacks proved more effective in the red zone last season, an area where King's size and short-area quickness make him difficult to burn. Green Bay could take advantage of that strength immediately.
Regardless, the Packers have bet on their ability to develop King's potential. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt has a long track record of turning around talented but raw prospects into stars, including Shields, Tramon Williams, Micah Hyde and others. King presents different challenges, but also a greater reward. The defense hasn't had a cover man with his abilities under Dom Capers.
Furthermore, the Packers deserve plenty of credit for working the process. They might well have taken King in the first round -- as the Milwaukee journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn predicted the night before the draft -- but the team managed to secure an extra pick as well by trading. Given Green Bay's other major needs, the additional selection could produce a key rookie contributor or perhaps even a starter.