Washington cornerback Kevin King was rumored to be a target for the Seahawks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he has instead landed with an NFC rival. So did one of his Huskies teammate, safety Budda Baker.
They won’t remain teammates, but they will both find themselves playing against the Seahawks in their rookie seasons. King was taken by the Green Bay Packers with the 33rd overall pick of the draft, while Baker went at No. 36 to the Arizona Cardinals. Another Husky defensive back, cornerback Sidney Jones, was also taken by an NFC team, going 43rd overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Washington was one of the best defensive teams in college football in 2016, averaging a Pac-12-leading 17.7 points per game allowed, and the secondary was perhaps the biggest strength of a program that won a conference title and played Alabama in a national semifinal game. That being the case, it comes as no surprise that three players from that position group were gone in the first 43 picks of the draft.
King was taken one spot ahead of when the Seahawks were set to take their first pick on Friday – well, kind of. The Seahawks traded back twice on Thursday, first to later in the first round then completely out of it, setting up their first selection to be at No. 34. By the time the Packers took King on Friday, though, Seattle had traded down one more spot to make No. 35 their first selection of the draft, where they took Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell.
King used a stellar NFL combine performance to rise up draft boards, as he came out of Montlake as the least heralded of three Huskies defensive backs to be in the 2017 class. He instead was the first UW DB to be selected and second Husky overall, coming after wide receiver John Ross, who was taken ninth in the first round by Cincinnati Thursday.
In 2016, King made two interceptions, broke up a team-high 13 passes, and made 44 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. It was his 4.43 40-yard dash, vertical leap of 39.5 inches, and three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle times that were the fastest of any players at the combine that really turned heads. Oh, and at 6 foot 3, 192 pounds and with long arms, it didn’t hurt that he draws comparisons to Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
As for Baker, a local product who starred at Bellevue High School before becoming a consensus All-American at UW, he’ll join a talented secondary in Arizona along that includes Patrick Peterson, former WSU star Deone Bucannon, and Tyrann Mathieu – who Baker has often been compared to.
Baker led the Huskies with 71 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss as a junior in 2016. In his college career, he made 199 tackles, 18 pass defenses, 13 tackles for loss, five interceptions, four sacks and three forced fumbles.
Jones became the third Washington defensive back taken in about an hour, and his selection was met by cheers by the hometown faithful in Philadelphia, where the draft is being held. Jones had been projected to be taken in the first round earlier this year, in many cases ahead of his teammates from the UW secondary, but an Achilles injury suffered during Washington’s pro day required surgery, putting his 2017 season in jeopardy and severely impacting his draft stock.
A first-team Pac-12 selection in 2016 and Sports Illustrated and Football Writers second team All-America pick, Jones had three interceptions last season and made 145 tackles, eight interceptions and six forced fumbles in 40 career games as a Husky.
One more college player out of the state of Washington was picked Friday: Eastern Washington’s record-setting wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The Yakima native was selected 69th overall in the third round by the Los Angeles Rams, making him a third-generation NFL player following in the footsteps of his grandfather Jake Kupp, an offensive lineman from 1964 to 1975, and father Craig Kupp, who was a quarterback in the early 1990s. The youngest Kupp made 428 catches for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns in his career at EWU.