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Green Bay Again Must Shop for a Cornerback

The purpose of this post is not to disparage cornerback Kevin King – enough critics have already been doing that. Instead, my aim is to advocate that Green Bay get smart in finding a capable replacement for him.

In the spring of 2017, Ted Thompson and his crew selected Kevin King with the overall 33rd pick – they didn’t have a first-round pick that year. There were warning signs aplently about the pick, but Thompson failed to heed them.

Right off the bat, King was 6’3 1/4” tall and weighed 200 pounds. The classic dimensions for a cornerback are 5’10” – 5’11” and 189 – 196 pounds, like Jaire Alexander. It might sound like nit-picking, but it’s astonishing how few great cornerbacks there are who stray from that model – with Richard Sherman being a notable exception. You want a compact body type, not a lean and willowy guy like King.

You should look for a guy who has enough musculature to withstand hard hits. King only managed to do 11 bench presses – that’s 21st percentile for CBs.

Speed is of course essential. Kevin turned in a 4.43 dash time, good enough for 73rd percentile among the cornerbacks at the 2017 NFL Combine. He did have excellent agility scores, including 97th percentile in the 20 yard shuttle.

Let’s stop right here: our eyes tell us that the Kevin King we saw on Sunday is no longer the guy who recorded those marks back in 2017. On Sunday and throughout this season, when receivers make their breaks, they immediately separate themselves by at least two full strides from Kevin – and he never makes them back up either.

Both King’s speed and his acceleration (or burst) have badly declined in four short years. He’s too young for it to be a natural deterioration. Maybe it relates to a loss of self-confidence. Perhaps it’s due to injuries.

 

Jan 24, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) misses a catch against Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (20) during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

 

Ah, injuries. In his rookie year Kevin entirely missed seven games, and then another 10 in 2018, and another two in 2019, and another five in 2020. In 2020 alone, KK made the team’s injury report as follows: Achilles (Weeks 2, 3, 12, 13, 14, 15, and the divisional playoff); quadriceps (Weeks 7-11); groin (Weeks 14-17); and back (Conference Championship).

In playing four years at the University of Washington, two as a safety and two as a cornerback, King stayed somewhat healthy. He did miss several games as a freshman, and he notably missed bowl games at the conclusion of both his freshman and junior seasons. This could be an indication that King’s body wears down as a season wears on.

The only awards he received in college were two PAC-10 honorable mentions – unusual for such a high draft selection.

Gutekunst vs. Thompson

For a top-35 pick, I’d want a guy whose speed is well into the top quartile. Gutekunst understands this pretty well: he’s picked Jaire Alexander (18th pick, 4.38) and Darnell Savage (21st pick, 4.36). Last March, he also obtained Ka’Dar Hollman, whose Pro Day dash time was 4.39. On the other hand, in 2018 Gutey chose Josh Jackson (45th, 4.56). The standards I would follow are that a dash time slower than 4.45 is prohibited for a defensive back, and a time slower than 4.40 is prohibitive for a first or second round draft choice.

While Gutekunst covets speedy defensive backs, former GM Ted Thompson did not. Besides King, Thompson’s DB picks included: Josh Jones (2017, 61st draft pick, 4.41 dash speed); Damarious Randall (2015, 30th, 4.46); Quinten Rollins (2015, 62nd, 4.57); and Ha Ha Clinton Dix (2014, 21st, 4.50). That’s inexplicable.

How have Thompson’s picks done in the pros? In 2020, Josh Jones finally found a home with his third team, the Jaguars – he’s their starting strong safety. Randall is the third-string strong safety for the Seahawks. Since being released after three years by the Packers, Rollins was also released by the Cardinals in 2018, and by the 49ers in 2019. Clinton-Dix was released by the Cowboys just before the 2020 season, and was not picked up by anyone else.

Just for kicks I looked up the dash time of a cornerback taken fourth overall back in 1987: When Charles Woodson participated in what was then called the NFL Scouting Combine, he recorded dash times of 4.31 and 4.33 seconds.

Especially when it comes to cornerbacks, hundredths of a second differences in 40-yard dash times are critical.

The Eyes Have It

What fans see, and have seen increasingly in King’s four years in Green Bay is a guy who plays soft – keeping well off those he is guarding. He rarely jams receivers coming off of the snap. I have to assume that he knows, as do his coaches, that if he guards more closely, he’ll be left flat-footed when those receivers make their breaks. Whenever King is at a near stand-still, he simply is unable to quickly accelerate to full speed – so soft coverage is the lesser of two evils for him.

Against the Bucs, on that first touchdown pass, to Mike Evans, King actually did jam him, though it was five yards downfield, not at the line of scrimmage. Evans then continued on his route, immediately leaving King two paces behind. The second TD was a 39-yard pass to Scotty Miller who blew right past King. The little known and little used sixth-round receiver out of Bowling Green has one thing going for him: 4.39 speed. It’s not rocket science: Bruce Arians identified the speed mismatch and capitalized on it.

Pro Football Focus graded King 99th out of 121 quarterbacks during the 2020 season, and they gave him a pathetic 45.6 grade for his coverage skills. PFF also calculated Brady recorded a 140.5 passing grade on throws to receivers who King was covering. Anyone paying the least attention should have expected that King was Green Bay’s weak link.

Toughness/Aggressiveness

I don’t know of any way to measure football toughness. Going by observations, however, I’d have to put Kevin King just below Ha Ha, and right beside Damarious Randall at the bottom of the toughness scale. Even if we ignore their speed defects, these three high draft picks have never possessed the physicality this game calls for. Players who shy away from physical contact seldom excel, or last long, in the NFL.

The Weak Link

The Packers’ coaches had to have known about King’s fatal speed/burst deficiency, so why didn’t they respond to it over the last two years? That’s a question that Brian Gutekunst needs to be asked. The only relievers at cornerback listed on the Packers’ depth chart are Chandon Sullivan and Josh Jones.

Sullivan, who went undrafted in 2018, actually saw a lot of action in 2020: ten starts, 38 tackles, six passes defended, one interception, and one forced fumble. On the year, Sullivan took more defensive snaps than did King, 729 to 664. Let’s also credit Sullivan with being able to stay healthy two years in a row. What’s his downside? His 40-yard dash speed was 4.60.

Josh Jackson got 331 defensive snaps on the year. He started five games, had 26 tackles, and two passes defended. Unlike Sullivan, Jackson came into the league with shiny prospects: he was a unanimous All American, and Big 10 Defensive Back of the Year at Iowa in 2017. The Packers made him the 45th overall pick. Sadly though, his dash time was 4.56 seconds. Is that one stat enough to explain why the fourth CB selected in the 2018 draft has been unable to gain any traction over three seasons? Affirmative.

I just don’t see the too-slow Sullivan or Jackson ever becoming solid starting cornerbacks in the NFL. though he only got 108 defensive snaps in his rookie year, Ka’Dar Hollman, with his sub-4.4 speed, holds more long-term promise than these two. By the way, why even waste the training time on free safety Vernon Scott – the 2020 seventh-round pick is 6’2”, weighs 206, and has a 4.56 dash time.

The best reason I can come up with for Gutekunst not seeking help at cornerback in the past two drafts is that the Packers have spent so much draft capital on defensive backs over the last four years: King and Josh Jones (both round-two) in 2017; Alexander (round 1) and Josh Jackson (round 2) in 2018; Savage (round 1) and Hollman (round 6) in 2019.

I believe the Packers need to, and will, expend their round one pick on King’s replacement in a couple of months. It’s probably ill-advised, however, to even venture such a prediction, as Gutey goes by the beat of a different drummer.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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33 Comments

  1. KILLER January 28, 2021

    Rob is right that losing King in free agency is no loss at all. If he had 2 years left on his contract it would be awkward because you hate to have an experienced 1st sitting on the bench — it is a constant embarrassment — but even worse to have a bad one starting.

    In the last two years the Packers leadership has signed Preston Smith for a giant contract to be a part-time player, drafted Rashan Gary 12th overall (!) to be a part-time player, traded up in the 1st round to obtain a 3rd string QB, and used a 2nd round pick to obtain a 3rd string RB. That is an amazing record of draft/FA failure. Yes, Z. Smith is OK for the money and E. Jenkins has worked out great as the other 2nd round pick but, still, can you identify a team that has done worse in draft/FA in a 2-year time-span? Probably if you try but certainly not many.

    All GMs make mistakes just like all HOF QBs throw some interceptions. But not that many mistakes, that big of ones, over such a short time span. This will catch up to the Packers as their talent supply line dries up.

    There might be some decent CBs available at the end of Rd 1. Tyson Campbell comes to mind. He is 6’2″ but I don’t agree with height being some automatic impediment to a good CB. He is also fast and agile. In fact, his height and weight are very similar to Cameron Dantzler of the Vikings who the Vikings stole in RD 3 this year. Dantzler had two of the most amazing interceptions in the NFL last year, arguably the two most amazing/athletic/skillful interceptions, and was rated the #2 rookie CB by PFF, barely missing #1. He is 6’2″. Height is not the reason that King is bad.

    1. PF4L January 28, 2021

      I’m packing a bag (just in case). I’m going to get a mental health evaluation because i read most of L B’s post, but more frightening, i don’t disagree.
      .
      Now it could very well be, he is taking past thoughts of mine, and forging them into his own to come across more intelligent . That’s been a huge previous problem. But i can’t take that chance.
      .
      See ya on the other side.

      1. Ferris January 29, 2021

        Or just say…”Thanks Captain Obvious” It’s not like these assessments are done by anyone with some great insight. Sad thing is he know who the Packers signed/drafted. I cannot tell you anyone the Vikings picked in the past 2 years except Jefferson. No idea. The fact he knows tells us everything we need to know and suspect. Basement/jacking off/online chat To Catch a Predator type of person.

        1. KILLER January 30, 2021

          Ah, Fairy-Is, how I’ve missed you!

          Wait, I can’t remember, I gave someone mean nickname exception because they were politically cool. Was it you? Just say you voted for Biden and against the Republican Whackadoodle Party and it will remind me to not use Fairy-Is any longer. You are either for democracy or for Trump but you cannot be both. Anyone who does not love democracy should just move to North Korea.

          As per how I know the Packers picks. I study the players available for draft before the draft and get to know them and develop opinions about them. Then, I watch the draft. Voila! Bob is your Uncle Bob! That is how I know who the Packers drafted. It isn’t hard. It is fun. You should try it. During the draft I root for the Vikings to take certain players. This last draft I had JJ ranked as the #1 WR and hoped the Vikings would trade up for him. It sure worked out! When the Packers traded up for Love I laughed for ten minutes straight. I don’t usually watch the draft for the laughs but there it was.

          I understand why you are so troubled that I know the Packers draft picks. You are embarrassed as well you should be.

          1. Ferris January 30, 2021

            You can’t be on my team of anti Trump using language that is clearly a shot at same sex relationships. I don’t need your exception or your opinion. As far as being embarrassed your post is pretty defensive regarding your pathetic lonely behavior. It was nice while you were away as the Vikings were sucking again. Please go away again.

          2. KILLER January 30, 2021

            Same sex marriage? What u talking about?

            You’ve convince me. I will just call you goofball.

            You’re a goofball but, golly, I love your anti-Trump ways. America is the greatest! Democracy is the best! They should pass a law that Trump is not allowed to stand within 100 feet of the American flag.

            I took a year off from the site in order to focus my chi into defeating Trump. Good thing I did! I also could not spare any psychic energy for the Vikings but next year I’ll be back boosting them with judicious use of in-game telekinesis. It may seem like cheating but it has to happen in order to combat the historic ref favoritism towards the Packers.

          3. KILLER January 30, 2021

            Same sex marriage? What r u talking about?

          4. KILLER January 30, 2021

            Same sex marriage? What r u talking about?

          5. PF4L January 31, 2021

            “I took a year off from the site in order to focus my chi into defeating Trump. Good thing I did!” – L B :)
            ***************************************************
            : )
            .
            He didn’t have a minute to spare to come in here, because then…Trump would have won….lol
            .
            It had NOTHING to do with his living arrangements not offering complementary laptops and wi-fi service,

  2. Mick January 28, 2021

    Great article Rob! During the Thompson, McCarthy, Capers era, they wanted D-backs that were tall and lanky to help defend the big receivers especially in the red zone. Look at football today, and you’ll see that speed is king, both from an offensive and defensive stand point. And if you can luck out and get size with that speed; all the better. With all the DBs’ they have drafted in the past decade, and most not being able to succeed, one has to wonder what our scouts look for at the position. Look at the gambles this team has taken, especially in the top 4 rounds of the draft, and then look at some of the talent they have passed up to acquire what they thought was “a good value” I’m with Rob, in that you spend your top draft picks on areas of greatest need. Sure, you don’t reach for need, but you still have to address those needs. Most teams are built with a foundation of top 4 picks in the draft, some sensible FA acquisitions, and depth from the later rounds.

  3. PF4L January 28, 2021

    My first 3 initial impressions on King after being drafted, was that he looked frail, and looking at his face, i wasn’t sure if he was old enough to vote, or if he was gender positive.
    .
    My reaction on his play…..ws that he would repeatedly get beat at the line when playing press. A little juke by the receiver and he had King beat by a step or two in the first 6 yards.
    Which may explain why he pays “off” so often. That keeps him in the play “longer”.
    .
    What Packer fans initially liked about King….was that he was a special tackler. Which didn’t really puzzle me. He was a good tackler…AS LONG AS….the receiver was catching the ball near the line of scrimmage and was not in motion yet, or was in his first 3 steps, then King would be a willing tackler. Other than that…not so much.
    .
    So what’s the bottom line…..the Packer have been hunting for cornerbacks since 2015. There was a reprieve for a couple years for those hoping King would “develop”. Well that clearly hasn’t happened.
    So in essence, we we’re cornerback hunting in 2015, and we will continue to be, in 2021.
    Big credit for Gute drafting Alexander…one move where he holds his head high.

    1. PF4L January 28, 2021

      PF4L December 9, 2017
      i agree with that, as i’ve said in the past, King looks frail. No injury would shock me concerning King.

  4. Mick January 29, 2021

    Other news, Packers have fired STs’ coordinator Shaun Mennenga, and promoted from within Maurice Drayton, to be the new ST coordinator. THOUGHTS?

    1. Howard January 29, 2021

      Mick, last year LaFleur had a press conference on the Wednesday after the NFCC loss. LaFleur was asked some questions he probably didn’t answer the way he wanted regarding Pettine’s status. I said, in part, at the time.
      .
      “I think the Pettine question caught LaFleur off guard and it shouldn’t have. I think in the future LaFleur will not have a season closing press conference until after evaluations of players and staff, and a final meeting with the president and GM. It was probably a rookie head coaching mistake that won’t be repeated.”
      .
      It is now Friday with no after NFCC loss press conference from LaFleur. It appears LaFleur and the team are trying to finalize some details regarding at least the coaching staff. I’m sure Mennenga is gone. I’m not sure that Drayton is the new STs coach? I’m more interested in what is going on with Pettine. Something more than just maybe finalizing a contract with Drayton is in the works. LaFleur does not want to have his final after game press conference without finalizing some details or having clear cut answers. For some reason the answers to some questions that may be asked are not yet finalized?

      1. PF4L January 29, 2021

        What’s interesting about the Pettine situation, is last year he was offered an extension after improving defensive scoring by about 6 PPG.
        But he wasn’t interested.

        1. Howard January 30, 2021

          Pettine pulled a Raji and saved the Packers from making a mistake. :-)

        2. Mick January 30, 2021

          We can only guess why Pettine wasn’t interested in signing an extension after 2019. The reason for this might never be known, as the organization is well known for keeping these type of things hush, hush!

          1. PF4L January 30, 2021

            Good call Howard, excellent memory!
            .
            Mick…my guess is he wanted to parlay last season, with a hopefully successful 2020 season….into leverage. So he rolled the dice. Much like his defensive play calling, he rolled wrong.

  5. Arch Stanton January 29, 2021

    Petine is gone!

  6. PF4L January 29, 2021

    I don’t always know what i’m talking about.
    .
    But i’m not so sure making your defense sit through re- watching last years NFCCG, was the best motivational tool.
    I would also guess Pettine got looked at sideways from people, for doing that.

    1. KILLER January 30, 2021

      The Packers defense was 9th in the NFL this year in yards allowed and 7th in passing defense. With 3 superior players (Alexander, Z. Smith, and Clark) but one of those three (Clark) was not at full strength. Amos is better than average and Savage is starting to be an asset. King is terrible (need I convince?). P.Smith and Gary are time share part-timers. The middle linebackers are no-name invisibles as are Dean Lowry (more known for his excessive contract than his play) and “other guy” on DL. Finishing 9th with that group was a Herculean heroic coaching triumph by Pettine.

      Pettine screwed up the last call in the 1st half. Definitely.

      But so did Lafleur on 4th and goal from the 8 in the 4th quarter. Arguably, Lafleur screwed up worse. No one screwed up more than taking Gary 12th overall with Montez Sweat available if you did want to use your 12th overall on a back up. No one screwed up more than wasting a 1st round pick and another draft pick to trade up for a 3rd string QB. Most teams don’t even carry 3 QBs so it also wasted a roster spot! Or drafting a 3rd strong RB in RD 2.

      What if thiose picks had been used on Montez Sweat in 2019, Tee Higgins in RD 1 this last year, and CB Cameron Dantzler in Rd 2 this year? I’ll tell you what: The Packers would be in this year’s super bowl.

      Get rid of Pettine? He’s the problem? Really? Really???

      But Lafleur can’t fire himself (or not renew contract). This is just pure traditional scapegoating going on here to make it look like “I did something about that”.

      Firing Pettine does not make the team better. It just makes Lafleur and Murphy look better. There are better DCs out there, it is possible to do better than 9th, yes. But not many and they are not easily found and are not successful usually with this level of available talent.

      By far, the most likely result of replacing Pettine will be a much worse defensive ranking next year.

      1. PF4L January 30, 2021

        I’m afraid your 11 months in lock-up has left you with a void. A void of missed Information to make any credible statements concerning your obsession with the Packers.
        .
        Pettine’s firing does not make Murphy look better. You might have discovered that on your own at that time…but you were probably busy being “booked in”.

      2. Mick January 30, 2021

        Killer, you have some good points here. I really do think the major reason Pettine was let go was because of his scheme being so soft, meaning there was a lack of aggressiveness. When Pettine was hired, in his presser he stated, that his defense was going to be the aggressor, we aren’t going to let the opposing offense dictate to us how we play, we will be the enforcer. Well, more often than not, his bend but don’t break defense has been scrutinized the last 2 years. Pettine actually coached better in 2018 with less talent. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not all on him. Management has repeatedly failed to address the obvious needs on both sides of the ball. This last draft sure is proof of that. And I also agree with you on the fact that just because they fired him, doesn’t mean that the next coordinator is guaranteed to be better. Back to the point of talent, you can only do so much with the talent you have. In that sense, the problem goes beyond Pettine!

        1. KILLER January 30, 2021

          A fair point but how many DCs are let go after improving their D up to 9th in the NFL and helping the team get to the championship game? I can’t think of any.

          More likely than not, the D will be worse next year. This separation from Pettine caused that.

          1. PF4L January 30, 2021

            The ones that call the most idiotic play scheme with 6 seconds to go before halftime of a NFCCG?

          2. KILLER January 31, 2021

            Do you remember earlier in the year when something similar happened with the Jets? Everyone also criticized Adam Gase for not being involved in the defense, not having his head in the game, not being aware, and thus letting it happen. Gase also manned up and admitted he should have done better and different. Lafleur? Pfffffft. Nothing. No manning up from him. Only scapegoating. He is like a little young Donnie Trump of the head coaching species. Just keep throwing people under the boss, saying you’re a victim of them while you victimize them. Quite Trumpy.

            Lafleur is probably a better coach than Gase but Gase is a better man. Whatever happened to “the buck stops here?” Lafleur was on that same sideline and did not even need to prep the offense to go back out on the field. It was nearly halftime. Lafleur needed to get his head in the game. He was hired to be the HC, not just an offensive coordinator riding Rodgers’ coattails.

            Come on, Piffle, where has your critical thinking gone?

          3. PF4L January 31, 2021

            Lol…if you had 5% of the football intellect you think you have, you might make a good point once in awhile.
            .
            You might demand respect walking around the streets of your trailer home park, but in here, you have to earn it.
            .
            How did you have time to watch the Jets, weren’t you too busy “campaigning”….lol

          4. PF4L February 1, 2021

            KILLER January 31, 2021
            Do you remember earlier in the year when something similar happened with the Jets?
            .
            No, i don’t…did the Jets also give up 21 points in performing sub standard NFL pass defense in the NFCCG?
            .
            Stop talking L B…there might be someone out there who (possibly) still thinks you’re intelligent

          5. Arch Stanton February 1, 2021

            What happened after that game? The Jets fired their DC. No excuse for giving up a TD in that situation. The Packers did the right thing letting Pettine go.

  7. Jeff Howland January 30, 2021

    Who wrote this? The Packers DID HAVE A 1st round pick that year but They traded back and the Steelers were next in line and took,,,,, TJ WATT !!! We ended up with King with our pick that we got in return for trading back. How can this guy even be a writer? I remember that trade like it was yesterday and Im still pissed off about it !

    1. PF4L January 30, 2021

      Rob Born wrote this. Is he perfect, does he remember everything? No…and neither do i. There a 3 reasons for Rob to misstep on the facts once in awhile and we’re perfectly ok with it.

      .
      1) He’s human, he makes mistakes, as we all do.
      .
      2) He’s retired….as far as i know, he does this for free, and he puts more time in writing articles than any writer i’ve seen in here.
      .
      3) Most importantly… he’s a legit, loyal, deep thinking, dedicated Packer fan. He’s our brother.
      .
      So…F O
      .
      BTW…it wasn’t Rob’s fault they picked King over Watt.
      .

  8. Mick January 30, 2021

    Last night, Packers Wire put out an article titled; “15 defensive coordinator candidates for the Packers.”. You all might want to read; if you’re bored———Like Me!

  9. PF4L February 1, 2021

    One last thing about Kevin King before Gute admits his mistake and lets him walk.
    .
    Despite all of Gutenkunst talent evaluation skills, in spite of PFF’s yearly grades on King.
    In spite of everyone’s negative opinions about King.
    .
    Gute made a conscious decision to keep King on. Against all evidence he was a hinderance to the team. Spent well over 240 million, but not a move was made to strengthen that side of the field.
    .
    With all Gutes experiences, surely he must have known that King was a week link? Nobody told him?
    .

    I don’t know how Gute thinks…maybe he thought King could help the Packers win a Super Bowl (if getting to the Super Bowl was in fact, even an objective in Gute’s mind last spring). Some may question that. I know i do.
    .
    So what have we learned in retrospect…Was Kevin King an asset or a hinderance?
    .
    I’m sticking with…..an accident waiting to happen.
    .
    Drafting Alexander….Gute’s #1 off season move in 3 years.
    .
    Keeping King on…..mistake #14