GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 12: CB Kevin King (6-3, 200, fourth season, Washington)
It’s not King’s fault, but he’ll forever be compared to T.J. Watt.
The Packers, badly in need of an outside linebacker in 2017, could have drafted Watt with the 29th pick of the first round. Instead, then-general manager Ted Thompson traded back to No. 33. Watt went No. 30 to Pittsburgh and Thompson pounced on King – the corner with the elite combination of height and athleticism. Watt, the former Wisconsin star, has been a stud. He earned his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and his first All-Pro in 2019, when he had 14.5 sacks, an NFL-leading eight forced fumbles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed.
While Watt has been nothing short of sensational, King, at least, stayed on the field last season.
As a rookie, he missed one game with a concussion before going on injured reserve to have shoulder surgery. In 2018, he missed two games with a groin injury before missing the final eight with a hamstring injury. In two seasons, King started only 11 games and played merely 32.5 percent of the defensive snaps. Last year, King played in 15 games with 14 starts. He logged 805 snaps, which is 201 more than his first two seasons combined.
With availability, he finally showed his immense ability. King ranked among the league leaders with five interceptions (and dropped three others), including a potential game-saver against Minnesota in Week 2. By the coaches’ count, he was second on the team with 18 passes defensed. By the official league stats, he tied for eighth in the league with 15. In his first two seasons combined, he played 15 games with one interception and seven passes defensed.
“I’ve envisioned moments like this since I was a little boy,” he said before the playoff game against Seattle. “The injury part of it, that’s a part of it. I really was focused more on getting back to the team and, shoot, it was the offseason by that time. I was unwinding from things. Blessed to be in this opportunity to where I don’t have it on my mind. Just keep the foot on the pedal and keep it going.”
According to Pro Football Focus, King allowed 53-of-88 (60.2 percent) passing with four touchdowns. Of 81 corners to play 350 coverage snaps, he ranked last with 1.66 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. Some of that ugly number came from the occasional letdowns. He allowed catches of 30-plus yards in seven games. A dismal start in the Week 6 home game against Detroit almost had the Packers get run out of their own building in the first quarter. However, starting with the game at the Giants in Week 13, King strung together a series of strong performances. According to PFF and its best reckoning of coverage responsibilities, King allowed 11-of-22 passing for 147 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions during the final six games (including playoffs). That’s just 24.5 yards per game.
“It’s just kind of just relaxing and just letting it come to you,” King said. “Just kind of like knowing my technique, just not trying to do things, not trying to overdo things, trying to make somebody else’s play. If I do get beat one time, to have that confidence in myself and my technique to be able to go back to that (and) not try to change it mid-play. That’s where people get messed up, lost in their confidence and things like that. It’s so big as a defensive player and especially as a corner to have confidence, because those guys are good. They’re going to get a play, but we’ll do it again.”
Why he’s so important: King is entering the final season of his rookie contract. He ranks 66th among corners with a cap charge of about $2.25 million. If King can stay healthy again and eradicate the awful play or two that plagued him in several games, the Packers could have a premier cornerback tandem this season. And with the makings of an elite pass rush, that could make Green Bay’s defense incredibly dangerous. On the other hand, if King is lost again, the depth at corner is a bit scarce unless former draft picks Josh Jackson or Ka’dar Hollman rise to the occasion.