2017 NFL Draft: Trade back still lets Green Bay Packers land CB target Kevin King

By The Sports Xchange  |  April 29, 2017 at 12:49 PM
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GREEN BAY -- The Green Bay Packers took an additional 20 hours to make their first selection in this year's NFL Draft, but the shared sentiment in the Lambeau Field draft room Friday night was the long wait was worth it.

Green Bay's decision-makers still landed the player they coveted, taking Washington cornerback Kevin King to start the second day of the draft with an eye on fixing an atrocious pass defense.

"He was the guy that we really like," said Eliot Wolf, the team's director of football operations.

So much that general manager Ted Thompson kept the first choice in Round 2 (No. 33 overall) after taking several inquiries from other teams about trading back one more time. Toward the end of the first round late Thursday night, the Packers moved out of the 29th spot in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

Green Bay acquired Cleveland's leadoff spot in the second round and also a fourth-round selection.

"No one really came and gave us (in a trade offer) what we felt was good value, and it might have cost us a player," Wolf said. "And, Kevin was the guy that we didn't want to lose."

The addition of the 6-foot-3, 200-pound King, whom the team considered picking at No. 29, was more than just taking the best player available. The Packers addressed what many considered to be their biggest offseason need, doubling up in the process later in the second round with hybrid defensive back Josh Jones from North Carolina State.

"There's high expectations for these two guys, no doubt about it," said Brian Gutekunst, Green Bay's director of player personnel.

King is expected to start right away on a Green Bay defense that ranked second from the bottom in the league against the pass in 2016. After allowing more than 4,600 passing yards in the regular season, the Packers imploded one last time by giving up 392 yards and four touchdowns to quarterback Matt Ryan in the Atlanta Falcons' 44-21 NFC Championship rout three months ago.

All-Pro receiver Julio Jones' domination of a helpless group of defensive backs with nine receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns in that game surely played a part in the Packers' preference for King.

As the tallest cornerback among a deep cast of top prospects at the position in this year's draft, King already is looking forward to matching up with the 6-foot-3 Jones when the Packers return to Atlanta in Week 2 next season.

"I'm definitely up to it," King said.

His uncanny combination of size, length (32-inch arms), speed (4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine) and playmaking exploits (five interceptions and 23 pass breakups the last two seasons after moving from safety) could make King the Packers' top shutdown corner from the get-go.

They are unsettled at the top of the depth chart after releasing oft-injured No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields in February, allowing the versatile Micah Hyde to sign with the Buffalo Bills in free agency and still waiting on the development of a young group of returnees. Among those are Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, the team's underachieving first- and second-round draft picks in 2015.

The re-signing of Davon House, a part-time starter in Green Bay from 2011-14 before he moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars the last two seasons, had been the team's only notable acquisition for the secondary.

That all changed in less than three hours Friday night with the alluring additions of King and Jones, who was taken at No. 61. The latter is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound safety with as much quickness (4.41 seconds in the 40) as the former.

"Definitely taller ... and maybe a little faster," Gutekunst said about the upgrades made to the back end of the defense.

"I think you're always trying to get faster," Thompson echoed. "I don't think it's a negative thing. Football is about explosiveness, speed, athletic ability. This is not our grandfathers' football that we're playing at this day and age. Everybody's fast, everybody's explosive, and I think that's what we're trying to get at."

A productive and no-less-confident Jones just might make Packers fans easily forget about Hyde, who was defensive coordinator Dom Capers' designated rover for much of the last four seasons.

"I'm very versatile," Jones said. "I have great size to play in the box, great speed to play back deep."

Jones had eight interceptions in three years with North Carolina State and led the Wolfpack with 109 tackles last season.

The double-up in the second round as well as the selection of Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams in the third round (No. 93) after sitting out the first night was just the start Thompson wanted for Green Bay's draft.

"We had talked about it (Thursday), we wanted to add a little meat to shoring up the roster and that sort of thing," said Thompson, explaining what went into the decision to part with the first-round pick. "We felt like it was important to get a little more oomph out of it."

Thompson traded out of the first round for only the second time in his 13 years of leading the Green Bay draft room. The swap with the Browns came with little drop-off and an additional pick.

"The (draft) board held up pretty strong, so, yeah, we felt pretty good about it," Thompson said.

Green Bay merely had to move back four spots to No. 33, where King was waiting to be taken while still on site at the draft in Philadelphia on Friday.

The Packers also picked up the Browns' fourth-round spot at No. 108, which incidentally will be the first selection of the draft Saturday. Green Bay is slated to have six picks on the final day.

The only other time the Packers dropped out of the first round on Thompson's watch came in 2008. They moved back six spots from No. 30 and selected wide receiver Jordy Nelson early in the second round in a trade with the New York Jets.

"I think it's very good strategy wise," Thompson said Thursday about moving into a coveted position at the outset of Round 2 this year. "We know where we're at and what we're going to do."

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