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The Lion “King”

PSU Junior Cornerback King poised to make history

Via MGoBlog on Flickr

The 2023 NFL Draft was supposed to be where history was to be made for Penn State.

The Nittany Lions have had 381 overall NFL Draft picks, notably never having one cornerback go in the first round.

Joey Porter Jr. was a lock to become the 12th Nittany Lion cornerback to be drafted and was poised to make school history as the first cornerback drafted in the first round.

Porter Jr. came the closest to any other Nittany Lion corner drafted as the first selection in the second round.

While many draft analysts feel Porter Jr. will be a long-term starter in the NFL, many analysts thought he wasn’t the best Nittany Lions cornerback in 2022.

Most analysts pointed to sophomore Kalen King outperforming Porter Jr. in 2022 and there are metrics that bare that out.

King was graded by Pro Football Focus (PFF) with an 89.0 overall grade, this is the highest grade of any returning cornerback in the nation.

Last season, King had 24 tackles, 9 assists, with 9 stops. In coverage, he totaled 9 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and a QB rating when targeted of 59.3. When opposing quarterbacks targeted receivers where King was in single coverage, King had an 18.3 quarterback rating, the best in the nation. PFF graded King a 93.3 in single coverage, the highest grade issued by PFF for top cornerbacks.

“I feel like every time a ball is thrown at me, [the quarterback] is throwing it at me, not the receiver I’m guarding. Me,King said in an interview with PFF. “If a quarterback throws the ball in my direction, he’s trying to pick on me more than he is trying to pass it to his teammate. It might sound crazy, but that’s my logic. Every single time a quarterback throws it my way, I get offended.”

King wants to earn the ultimate respect and has his eyes on his matchup against Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. Last season, Harrison Jr. was guarded by both King and Porter Jr., and while he was held out of the end zone, he still burned the Penn State secondary with 10 receptions for 185 yards. “I’m very excited to go up against him,” King said. “Marvin Harrison Jr. is a very good player. He’s got all the intangibles from size, speed, catch radius and run after catch. That’s the perfect challenge for me, and that’s the challenge I need to put myself up against if I want to be at the top of the country. That matchup is very important, and I can’t wait for it.”

While the matchup with Marvin Harrison Jr. will leave many college football enthusiasts and analysts watching, there is a lot about King’s game that is worth watching.

As a cornerback, King tends to play more physically, he will press the receiver at times and has a quick and powerful punch.

King’s ability to locate the ball is an elite strength and has a natural ability to force turnovers.

His click-and-close ability to backpedal is elite and his fluid hips complemented by his speed allow him to make quick pivots and run in coverage.

"Kalen can catch it, so he can punish you, when you throw it where No. 4 is, you may not get it back. That really makes offenses and quarterbacks have to think twice after going after him. He doesn't leave his guy open very often, and when you try it anyway, it may be a turnover. That gives you great value. We obviously play a little more man [coverage], and he fit in starting last spring and was one of the really key players during spring practice. Everyone talked about [Joey Porter, Jr.] for great reason, but Kalen King played at a level in my mind as good as any corner in the country a year ago."

One of the intangibles all scouts and coaches marvel over with King is the competitive drive and extreme confidence he exudes.

When PFF analyst Max Chadwick asked King if he was the best cornerback in the country, King replied succinctly, “Yes, definitely.”

King’s confidence should bode well for him as he tries to set many firsts in Nittany Lion history as the first Jim Thorpe Award winner, the first cornerback to be a Consensus All-American, poised to become the first Nittany Lion cornerback to go in the first round in the 2024 NFL Draft.



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