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Packers, King a matchup worth the wait

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By Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, April 29, 2017

GREEN BAY--The inherent risk of accepting an invitation to the green room is a fateful draft-day slide, a kind of precipitous freefall immortalized by social media and nauseating for the players involved.

Thirty-two picks came and went Thursday and Kevin King, a talented cornerback from Washington, never heard his cell phone ring. He retreated to his hotel room unsure of what to think.

“I went back to the hotel, I took my suit off and had my headphones on and went and worked out,” King said in a conference call Friday evening. “I went and ran on the treadmill for about an hour and I hit the weights. That’s what makes me, will relax me, kind of do that to myself a little bit, and get ready for today.

“I came here for a reason. I came here to hear my name called and if I wanted to go home and do it at home I would be at home.”

So King returned to the green room Friday evening for a stay best measured in seconds. After a long day of waiting—for both King and fans of the Green Bay Packers—general manager Ted Thompson addressed his biggest need with the very first pick of the second round. The Packers selected King with the 33rd overall pick.

“I feel great about it,” King said. “It’s a great organization. I’ve been hearing so much about Lambeau Field, about the fans, all the great cheeseheads out there. I’m glad to be a part of it.”

King, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 198 pounds, fills an immediate hole for the Packers following a year in which their pass defense ranked 31st in the league in yards allowed. King is likely to contend for a starting spot as a rookie and challenge the quartet of Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter and Davon House for a place on the perimeter.

Shortly after the pick was submitted, television cameras captured defensive coordinator Dom Capers smiling inside the Packers’ draft room. Thompson cracked a grin as well during a handshake with director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst.

“He’s a really versatile guy,” director of football operations Eliot Wolf said. “He was a starting safety his sophomore year, played a lot in the slot his junior year and in the beginning of this year. He’s also played outside. That’s something we look for. We look for guys with that versatility. We see him being able to do a lot of different things for us.”

And the metrics are impressive: 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical leap, 6.56 seconds in the 3-cone drill (best among corners at the combine), 3.89 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle (best among corners at the combine), 26 on the Wonderlic.

The Packers have never had a corner with King’s combination of size and speed, according to Wolf, who spoke to the media shortly after the pick was made. Eventually, they see him blossoming into a No. 1 corner—just like they hoped Randall would before his wayward 2016 season.

“One of our goals this year was to try and get faster, and I think we got the tallest corner in the draft and a guy that runs really fast and a guy that can make plays on the ball,” Wolf said. “We’re really excited about it.”

Selecting King was the first bit of payoff from a trade with the Cleveland Browns on Thursday evening. Thompson, who entered the draft with the No. 29 overall selection, was encouraged by the depth of the Packers’ draft board as the first round unfurled and decided to slide down four spots.

In exchange for the 29th pick, which the Browns eventually used on tight end David Njoku from Miami, the Packers received pick Nos. 33 and 108.

Because the trade handed Thompson the first pick in both the second and fourth rounds, speculation about his intention swirled Thursday into Friday. Thompson had told the media he was open to shopping the selection, and the Packers fielded plenty of calls prior to selecting King.

“No one really came and gave us what we felt was good value and it might have cost us the player,” Wolf said. “And Kevin was the guy that we didn’t want to lose.”

King didn’t want to lose the Packers, either.

“I knew they (had) a need at corner,” King said. “I thought that they might have picked me in the first round. But they traded back and got me as well, so it’s a blessing."



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