Our initial panel of "6ers" is a veritable who's who of the most respected Penn State posters in cyberspace.
They are, in no particular order:
fp001: Brace yourself for input from someone who knows the program inside and out.
HowardStern: Anything but a shock jock, he is renowned for his well-formed opinions on recruiting and Nittany Lion football.
KokobewareHI: Living proof that one need not be physically close to the Penn State football program to be close to the Penn State football program.
BMan2: Something of a new kid on the block, he refuses to horse around when it comes to tackling the Nittany Lions.
MarshCreek: With online roots stretching back to his days at PSU Playbook and LionNews, he is well known as a river of football information.
Ed001: Back from his summertime hiatus, the venerable one is once again talking Penn State football. And a lot of people are listening.
With introductions out of the way, on to this installment's question:
Justin King: First, following the 2007 season, should he stay at Penn State or should he go to the NFL? Second, what do you think he will end up doing?
Justin King will graduate this December. Justin King is widely considered one of the best cover corners in college football. Justin King has shut down eventual first-round draft choices, the same type of WRs he will face in the NFL. Justin King projects as a first -ound draft choice and will be guaranteed millions of dollars. Therefore, Justin King should turn pro.
Justin King needs to get bigger and stronger and mature. His body is not NFL ready. Justin King has not dominated college football like an elite corner should. Justin King has never been named an All-American or even first-team All-Big Ten. Nor has his team won a national championship. Justin King still has some goals to reach. Justin King can always take out an insurance policy to insure himself against injury during his senior season. You only get to enjoy the undergraduate experience once in your lifetime. The NFL will always be there. Therefore, Justin King should return for his senior season.
Assuming the above remains true, it doesn't seem like you can go wrong with either choice. But if I were Justin, I'd turn pro.
Now, the million dollar question (pun intended); What will he do? I think he turns pro. This is a kid who has already foregone his senior year ... to an extent. Justin was an early enrollee, so he has some precedent to taking on challenges earlier than most. He has also taken extra college courses to be able to graduate in 3.5 years. Clearly, he has planned for the possibility of entering the NFL Draft early. Like I said earlier, I don't think he can make a wrong decision.
Q: Should he stay or should he go next season? That's a loaded question if I've ever heard one. As I fan, of course, the answer is a resounding NO to leaving! However, if he continues to progress the way that he has, how can't he leave. He's as good a shut-down corner as there is in the country and shut-down corners are a prized possession at the next level. Additionally, he'll have enough credits to graduate. In the end, it will come down to where he projects in the draft. His combine numbers (shuttle and speed) will have the scouts drooling. If he goes around No. 10 in the draft, he'll command roughly $15 million guaranteed and a five-year, $30 million deal. At No. 20, his take will be around $8-10 million guaranteed and a five-year, $15 million deal. As a top 5, the numbers are absurd; however, if he's not top 20, the dollar drop-off starts to become meaningful.
For a comparison, take the case of Leon Hall. Hall was taken No. 18 in the 2007 draft by the Bengals. He signed a five-year $13.6 millions contract with $8.2 million in guarantees. Anyone think Hall is a better player than King? Anyone? Bueller? Is this mic on?
At the end of the season, it will depend on how JK compares to the rest of the class of 2008 and how he potentially compares to the class of 2009 (just ask Levi Brown about comps!). I would clearly put him at the top of last year's class; however, I'm not as sure about this class. Only time will tell.
Q: What do you think he will end up doing? How the heck am I supposed to know? One thing for sure, King's a speed-finesse player, but he's one injury away from taking a huge hit to the wallet. In that respect, I'll defer to Steve Miller in attempting to answering this question: Hey Justin..."Go on, take the money and run. Go on, take the money and run..."
It is certainly no stretch to make the statement that Justin King is the premier cornerback in the country. His on-field performances last year in locking up eventual first-round draft picks Ted Ginn of Ohio State and Robert Meachem of Tennessee solidified King as a "lock-down corner." Teams rarely even test King anymore and when they do it is only when King gives ground in front of himself as part as Penn State's zone package. The fact that teams avoid his side of the field entirely is indicative of the respect that he has earned from opposing offenses.
For as good as a college CB as King is, I can see where a few questions remain regarding his pro potential. Look no further than the track record of top PSU CBs in the NFL. It isn't very good. It can be said that PSU is a "system" CB school. The last PSU CB to have any NFL career of note as a CB in the last decade plus was David Macklin. But, then again, King's physical skills (speed, quickness, and hips) are far superior to those of any PSU CB in the last 25 years. And we all know how the NFL drools over "measureables."
The one "chink" in Justin King's armor has always been his tackling. He has been tagged as a player who does not like to play physical. His game is thought to be all about speed. And with consistent sub 4.4 40 times to his credit, King definitely has speed to burn. To King's credit he has worked hard on his tackling and has come a long way in that department. No one is going to mistake him for Ronnie Lott, but King is now a pretty solid tackler. But tackling is not where King will make his NFL money. The fact that King stays in the hip pocket of any WR he covers is where his value lies.
In my opinion King should stick around at PSU for his senior season. His skills certainly are as NFL ready as any CB in the nation. But the NFL is a totally different animal. King would be facing bigger and stronger WRs than he has ever seen before. In looking at King's body right now I question whether he would be able to physically withstand an entire NFL season. He has built up his body since his arrival at Penn State a few years ago but I think he needs another year of physical maturation in order to be truly ready for the professional game.
However I don't believe that Justin King will be seeking my advice on this decision. The way it looks right now Penn State is headed for a highly successful season. If PSU makes another trip to a BCS bowl this season I believe that King is definitely gone. But regardless of how this season turns out, I believe that the fact that King has graduated and is projected to be a high draft pick means that he will turn pro. We as fans certainly (selfishly) want him to return for his senior year, but it hard to argue with a kid's decision when it is guaranteed that he will be making seven figures at this time next year. So, in my opinion, after this season we will all be thanking Justin King for his contributions to Penn State football and wishing him the best of luck in the NFL.
Coming off a less than stellar performance against Buffalo, it's probably thought that King should stay for his final year, and yes he would improve dramatically with his strength, speed and coverage technique. But, just because he could improve does not mean he is not ready for the NFL. However, I do think he would benefit from one more year to raise his game, unless the projections have him as a top-10 pick.
There are of course risks involved here with injury. Also, something I think many may be overlooking is the bad taste the "fight incident" left in his mouth. Although cleared of all charges, he was very close to having his NFL hopes derailed after trying to break up the incident.
Given these factors King appears to be leaning toward departing early at this stage, but he also sees what staying has done for players like Paul Posluszny, Levi Brown and Dan Connor. Actually, it's quite a sign of the boost PSU has seen in talent that we seem to have this debate on a regular basis now. Couple this with the fact that he loves the college game and he'll have to think long and hard about the opportunity. In the end, though, I think as long his projection is strong in the first round he will depart early for the league.
With the amount of information today's players have at their disposal regarding draft status, the sensible player who is being honest with himself should have a pretty good idea where they might be chosen in the draft.
I have heard Joe Paterno speak on occasion about this subject and he has stated that if he has a player who is a consensus top pick then that player should seriously consider entering the draft. The question becomes where to draw the line. Should a player enter the draft if they are considered a top-30 selection, or should they only consider coming out if they are viewed as a top-5 pick?
I believe a player should do what is in his heart, but from a financial perspective alone I would advise a player to enter the draft if they are a top-10 choice. Is King a top-10 choice right now? I don't think so, today. But this could change as the year plays itself out.
Justin King has been a very good player for PSU during his career. He is the first true "lock-down" corner that that Lions have ever had. More importantly to Lion fans is that his decision (along with Derrick Williams' decision) to attend Penn State turned around the recruiting fortunes for Joe Paterno and his staff by once again making it "cool" to be a Lion for the nation's elite high school football prospects. Lion fans everywhere will remember both of these young men as the two who turned around the dark years at Penn State.
With all that said, Justin will be facing a difficult decision after this season. He will apparently graduate in December and he has the natural skills to move onto the NFL. However, after viewing this past weekend's game with Buffalo and speaking with some of his former teammates who have experienced pro football, they think and I concur that Justin should stay for his senior year. The overriding sentiment is that his body is not NFL ready yet and that one more year will help his body mature enough to make a big difference. They also feel that by waiting he will have an opportunity to be drafted higher, bringing him more of a financial reward. I would also add that it will give him one more year of preparing mentally to be out on a island everyday, which comes with the territory for an NFL corner.
Some say the decision has been made already to leave. I think Justin thoroughly reviews his options with his family and comes to the conclusion that he could lead a defense that in 2008 would return 10 starters and could go down in history as the greatest defense that Joe Paterno has ever fielded!! With this in mind and the knowledge that leading such a unit could significantly improve his draft status, it is my gut feeling that Justin King will return to Penn State in 2008. It will be a tough decision. Whatever he decides we all will wish him the best and will always remember him for what he did to breath new life into a struggling program!