With degree in hand, Desmond King now has the money

Hawkeye cornerback, Jaleel Johnson and George Kittle drafted on Saturday

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Without question, the Iowa story of the 2017 NFL draft is Desmond King’s descent.

Let’s pull out three projections. Pro Football Focus had King, a consensus all-American and Thorpe Award winner in 2015, going at the 64th pick. NFLDraftScout.com had King at No. 70. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had King going No. 88 to the Oakland Raiders.

King and his family spent two nights in a Kinnick Stadium suite waiting to hear his name.

Finally, a little after lunch on Saturday, the wait was over. King was at The Vine in Coralville when his name was called.

He still might be hugging his mom.

The Los Angeles Chargers took the Hawkeye cornerback with the 151st pick in the fifth round. Did King lose money when he made the decision to return to Iowa City in 2016? Spotrac.com has King’s contract numbers at $2.6 million for total value with a $281,308 signing bonus. Maybe he did, but no way to really know.

“It was a relief to get that call,” King told Chargers.com. “They are giving me the opportunity, and I can’t take that for granted. I have to come in there and reward them for that.

“... I am a hard worker. I want my first message (to Chargers fans) to be that I am someone who is going to go out there and give it 110 percent every day.”

• Hlas: Reversal of NFL draft fortunes for King, Beathard

King said all season there were no regrets. He graduated from Iowa in December. His mom, Yvette Powell, said all along that the degree mattered more than the money.

Now, King has the degree and he’ll have money and every chance to earn even more.

“I love this pick of Desmond King going to the Chargers,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “I believe in Desmond King as a football player. ... I think if you put King back at safety and let him compete, I think you’re going to find yourself a heckuva football player.”

Who knows why King dropped. With his skills and his size and speed, he may or may not be a corner in the NFL. He’s talked about that throughout the process, saying he’d play safety or nickel corner or wherever. The Chargers put out a video in which defensive coordinator Gus Bradley emphasized scouting King’s skills as a free safety.

“With Desmond King, it’s his ability to play corner, nickel corner and maybe some free safety for us,” Bradley said.

King is not the Thorpe Award’s lowest pick. In 2014, Louisville’s Gerod Holliman went 239th. When the Chargers do their medical exam, they’ll find a chip where King’s shoulder used to be.

“All I’m going to do is encourage this young man to make that transition mentally,” Davis said. “Don’t think you’re a corner anymore. Go be the best safety you can be in the NFL. I think he’ll have a nice impact in this league. I think this guy has great natural skills, instincts and he will tackle.”

Beyond what had to have been a frustrating 24 hours for King, the Hawkeyes slotted about as expected on Saturday.

Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson was the second pick of the day, going 109th to the Minnesota Vikings. According to spotrac.com, the overall value of Johnson’s contract will be in the $3 million range with a signing bonus of nearly $682,000.

Johnson (6-3, 316 pounds) had 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss last season, leading the Hawkeyes in both categories. The 22-year-old from Chicago via Brooklyn was a 4-star recruit out of Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Ill.

“The thing that I’m really most excited about playing in that division is playing against good guys, good competition,” Johnson told Vikings.com. “That’s what I’m all about; that’s how I’ve come up. Really just going against some of the best of the best. I’m going to go in there ready to compete.”

Pro Football Focus projected Johnson to go 112th. PFF’s comparison for Johnson? Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels, also a former Hawkeye D-tackle.

“He plays a high percentage of the snaps and because of that he sometimes has a tendency to rise out of his stance,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He needs to play with more consistent leverage. I think with less playing time in the NFL, he’ll be a better player.”

Daniel Jeremiah, also an NFL Network analyst, said “He’s someone who’s so strong and powerful, you see a lot of one-armed pressures, which is generating a bull rush with one hand. ... You can’t really move him at the line of scrimmage when he drops his pads. I think this is a line-of-scrimmage player who could be a dominant run defender.”

Johnson will join a Vikings interior defensive line that could be without former first-round pick Sharrif Floyd, who is recovering from nerve damage in his knee.

Johnson joins fellow Hawkeye alums OT Riley Reiff and kicker Marshall Koehn on the Vikings roster. Johnson was selected 11 years to the day since Minnesota drafted former Hawkeye Chad Greenway, who retired a Viking after the 2017 season, 17th overall.

Kittle enjoyed a rocket ride up draft projections after an eye-opening performance at the Combine. Still with Kittle, there was the lack of production in 2016 because of injury. He suffered a mid-foot sprain at Purdue in week 7. After that he caught just five passes for 36 yards.

Kittle’s projections varied wildly. PFF had Kittle at No. 70. Bleacher Report put him at No. 127. NFLDraftScout.com had Kittle at No. 111.

The 6-4, 247-pounder ended up going to the San Francisco 49ers on the second pick of the fifth round (No. 146), just a pick after the Broncos took Michigan tight end Jake Butt, who suffered a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ bowl game. Spotrac.com has Kittle’s contract slotting at $2.65 million total value with a $299,000 signing bonus.

It was a massive year for tight ends in the draft and that likely pushed Kittle, who ran a 4.51 40-yard dash and broad jumped 11-feet at the Combine, down the board. Seven tight ends were picked before him. Through five rounds, 11 tight ends had been picked.

“By far the best tight end class we’ve seen in 10 years,” Mayock said. “Those tight ends who just went (Kittle was in this group) in a typical class would’ve gone yesterday. That’s how good this class is.”

Kittle will join teammate C.J. Beathard, who was taken in the third round late Friday night after the 49ers traded up with the Vikings.

“Me and C.J. are great friends,” Kittle told 49ers.com. “We lived together. I’ve been with him for five years, every single step of the way. I’ve caught every single one of his passes for the past five years. We’re a great combo and I’m just really looking forward to being back on the field with him.”

Beathard’s selection was the reverse of King’s fall. PFF had Beathard going No. 225. The Niners took him at 104.

“We are bringing (Beathard) in here to develop him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said, adding that he believed Beathard has the tools to one day be an NFL starter.

“I’m confident in my abilities, and I’m just thankful the 49ers and coach Shanahan’s staff saw the potential in me and they believe in me enough to give me this opportunity,” Beathard said on a conference call. “And like I told them, they won’t regret it.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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