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Kalen King Battling Skeptics As NFL Draft Nears

With the 2024 NFL Draft quickly approaching, Penn State’s No. 1 cornerback last season, Kalen King, finds himself in an interesting position.

To start the 2023 season, King was given preseason All-American honors and was widely regarded as one of the top corners and prospects in college football. However, the combination of a quiet statistical year, poor athletic testing at the NFL Combine, and a rough Reese’s Senior Bowl performance caused King’s draft stock to plummet.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, King started and finished all three seasons of his collegiate career in Happy Valley, appearing in 37 total games for the Nittany Lions.

King’s best numerical season came his sophomore year in 2022 when he started opposite Joey Porter Jr. as the No. 2 cornerback in Manny Diaz’s defense. King totaled 27 tackles, three interceptions, and nine pass breakups that year. On top of that, King was targeted 59 times and allowed just 27 completions on those targets.

In 2023, King was tasked with filling the hole at starting corner left by Porter, who was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2023 NFL Draft. While King didn’t allow a touchdown all year, he failed to record an interception, broke up just one pass, and struggled mightily against higher competition like Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr.

Playing primarily on the outside as a corner for Penn State, King doesn’t have the prototypical size for an NFL boundary corner, measuring in at 5’11”, 190 pounds at the 2024 NFL Combine. Thirty-inch arms and a poor 4.61 40-yard dash time also don’t help King’s case.

“He doesn’t have the fluidity to just mirror and match routes, so he’ll need to get back to playing more physically from press to slow down route momentum,” Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein said.

A lack of fluidity is problematic for King as he is without the size to play on the outside and doesn’t possess the twitch necessary for the slot in the modern-day NFL. However, when in position to make a play on the ball, Zierlein claims King is “more than capable of tilting 50/50 balls in his favor.”

Additionally, King is ranked as the 149th-best prospect by Pro Football Focus (PFF), which described King as a “willing” run defender with “smooth yet explosive feet.” PFF sees starting-caliber potential in King at the next level if he improves his instincts and anticipation while running with receivers in coverage.

Despite heavy critique during the pre-draft process, King put on some impressive tape in 2022 for scouts to see and should hear his name in the upcoming NFL Draft — likely on day three.

Teams with a need at cornerback who also deploy a zone-heavy scheme on defense will have their eyes on King. The Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, and Indianapolis Colts are all organizations that fit that mold and could bring in King to help their secondary.

The first round of the NFL Draft is set to begin on Thursday, April 25, and the later rounds continue through April 27. It’ll be televised on ESPN and NFL Network.

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About the Author

Cadyn Gill

Cadyn is a freshman journalism major at Penn State. Hailing from the great state of Texas, he is a die hard Dallas sports fan. You'll often see him voicing his complaints about the Cowboys play calling on Twitter @cgill214.

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