No one can know if rookie Kevin King will develop into a top cornerback for the Green Bay Packers, but his rare athleticism provides an instant and undeniable upgrade at the position.
Last January supplies the evidence.
The Packers were so downtrodden at cornerback that LaDarius Gunter – a former undrafted free agent expected to be no more than the fourth player on the depth chart to start the season – was being asked to follow around No. 1 receivers as a matchup defender.
Gunter brought size, technique and fight to the task, and he won more battles late last season than he’ll ever truly get credit for. But his one tremendous weakness – a lack of relative athleticism – ruined him, often in terrific fashion. Dez Bryant and Julio Jones, two of the most physically dominant and athletic receivers in the game, treated Gunter like a turnstile, beating him at every level of the field for game-changing plays.
The former Miami cornerback had no chance. Without speed (4.69), leaping ability (33.5″) or quickness (1.68 10-yard split, 7.18 3-cone), Gunter lacked the athletic tools necessary for handling Bryant or Jones – who combined for 312 receiving yards and four scores during the two postseason games against Gunter and the Packers.
As an athlete, King couldn’t be any more different than Gunter.
He is taller, faster and quicker, by significant margins. King ran the 40 in just 4.43 seconds at the combine, while also posting a 39.5″ vertical and times of 6.56 seconds in the 3-cone drill and a 1.51-second 10-yard split in the 40.
King is the rare combination of length, straight-line speed, leaping ability and quickness.
The analytics show King to be one of the best athletes the cornerback position has seen in recent years.
His SPARQ score – which takes into account size when measuring athleticism – fits into the top 0.8 percent of NFL cornerbacks. In other words, fewer than one percent of cornerbacks already in the league can match King’s size and measurables.
Kent Lee Platte of Lions Wire utilizes a metric known as “Relative Athletic Score,” or RAS, to display football athleticism in an easily digestible, 100-point scale.
The RAS scores of Gunter and King show the incredible gap between the two cornerbacks:
The upgrade is clear. Gunter is one of the least athletic cornerbacks to play in the NFL over the last 15 years; King, one of the most.
In King, the Packers should have a cornerback capable of matching the dominant physical traits of Bryant, Jones and the rest of the game’s top pass-catchers. If Green Bay’s top pick meets expectations, he’ll remove the heavy burden from Gunter of playing a matchup role against top receivers and improve the cornerback depth chart from the top down.
The importance of athleticism can’t be understated at a position like cornerback. Covering receivers on a play-by-play basis requires physicality at the line of scrimmage, straight-line speed to get from Point A to Point B and recover…