Productive season pivotal for Desmond King heading into contract year

The DI evaluates the former Iowa defensive back's career in the NFL so far.


Iowa defensive back Desmond King avoids a tackle from Florida wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood during the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on Monday, Jan. 2, 2016. The Gators defeated the Hawkeyes, 30-3.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Desmond King is not a player Hawkeye fans will forget anytime soon.

From 2013-16, the defensive back and returner played in 53 games and had 14 interceptions and 33 passes defended. His best season was in 2015 when he had eight interceptions and 13 passes defended, which helped the Hawkeyes make the Big Ten Championship game and the Rose Bowl.

As a result of his great performance that season, he won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in the nation.

Somehow, King was the 21st cornerback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, which was in the fifth round to the Los Angeles Chargers. Now heading into his final season of his rookie contract, he has proven to have been a valuable selection for the Chargers.

2017 season

Despite being a mid-round pick, King played 68 percent of the available defensive snaps his rookie season. Appearing in every game, the Detroit native had only one interception, but he had most of it.

RELATED: Former Iowa cornerback Desmond King named to BTN All-Decade Team

Against the Dallas Cowboys, King picked off Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter and returned it 90 yards for a TD, which sealed a victory for the Chargers.

Throughout the season he had five passes defended and four sacks. King also continued his role on special teams, returning 17 kicks for 353 yards and one punt for two yards.

With a successful transition to the NFL, King was ready for a breakout season.

2018 season

King once again appeared in every game and improved his defensive snap percentage to 77 percent. On that side of the ball, he had three interceptions including one that was returned for a 42-yard TD against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter.

In addition, King had 10 passes defended, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.

On special teams, he returned 22 kicks for 522 yards and 23 punts for 318 yards and one TD, making him one of the best returners in the NFL that season.

The Chargers were a wild card team and played two games in the playoffs. King had one sack and averaged 29.8 yards on six kick returns in those games.

For his performance, King was named to the AP All-Pro First Team.

2019 season

Unfortunately for King, last season brought him back down to Earth. His defensive snap percentage went down to 60 percent, partly because he missed a game.

He had zero interceptions and two passes defended. However, he did have 2.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, and once forced fumble.

King’s returning statistics went down from the season before, but he did return a punt for a 68-yard TD in week five against the Denver Broncos.

Looking ahead to King’s future

The Chargers’ defense has been fortunate to have Gus Bradley as its defensive coordinator since 2017. In every season since he’s coached there, which is the same as King’s tenure there, his passing defense has been exceptional.

During King’s All-Pro season, Bradley’s defense was ninth in pass defense and allowed a 300-yard passing performance in only one game. Last season, the defense was fifth in pass defense.

Whether it is with the Chargers or another team that thinks it can use him better, King is due for a new contract soon.

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