There is no such thing as a sure thing in football. It is a foolish man who talks in certainties and absolutes, especially when it comes to projecting college football talent to the NFL. However, one player in the coming class is as close to that guarantee as any other. LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. isn’t just the top cornerback in the class; he’s a legitimate top-five talent in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Derek Stingley Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: LSU
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 195 pounds
Derek Stingley Jr. Scouting Report
It is widely acknowledged that Stingley Jr. will be the CB1 of the 2022 NFL Draft class, but what is it that makes the LSU cornerback so unique? It starts, rather simplistically, with his size.
At 6’1″ and 195 pounds, Stingley owns the prototypical size of an NFL cornerback. However, size alone isn’t enough for success. Thankfully, Stingley Jr. is blessed with ideal length at the position, which helps him be disruptive both at the catch point and at the line of scrimmage.
An exceptional athlete, Stingley Jr. can go toe-to-toe with the fastest wide receivers that college football has to offer. He demonstrates excellent play speed, but there’s more to him than simply being able to run. The LSU CB has stellar footwork, helping him mirror receivers’ routes. Additionally, he displays tremendous change of direction ability. Stingley is also explosive in short areas, allowing him to jump routes and makes plays on the ball.
Stingley puts his experience as a wide receiver to use at the catch point. He demonstrates impressive ball tracking prowess and regularly puts himself in a position to make a play. When the ball is in the air in his vicinity, there is every chance of a turnover.
Finally, Stingley Jr. projects to be extremely scheme versatile, making him a valuable commodity in the NFL Draft. He’s seen time at multiple alignments in the last two seasons while playing in both press and off coverage.
Areas for improvement
It is difficult to poke holes in Stingley’s game following two years of exposure to him at the college level.
If we’re hyper-critical, he needs to be mindful of his hand usage. There were instances of him getting a little handsy downfield unnecessarily, which would potentially have been a penalty in the NFL. Although he plays with physicality at the line of scrimmage, he needs to be mindful of his hand usage there as he sometimes has to recover a loss of balance caused by lunging with his arms.
Yet, even then, his ability to recover is exceptional, further showcasing how difficult it is to find fault with his game. There is a reason why Stingley Jr. is so highly rated and why he should easily be one of the first players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Stingley’s Player Profile
Stingley’s links to the NFL go far beyond his potential early-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. His grandfather, Darryl Stingley, was a first-round pick of the New England Patriots in the 1973 NFL Draft. His father, Derek, played football at the junior college level and was on the New York Jets practice squad before pursuing a career in the Arena League. There, he registered 19 interceptions and 110 pass deflections.
The football inspiration is clear, and Stingley Jr.’s early football career highlighted the best of the talent of both generations before him. Darryl was set to become one of the highest-paid receivers in the game at the time before a career-ending injury. It was clear early on that Stingley Jr. held the same ball skills to play the position. However, he’d also inherited his father’s defensive prowess.
Stingley Jr. quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous playmakers in high school football, with the ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball. The Baton Rouge native excelled for Dunham High School, earning five-star recognition and ranked as the No. 1 cornerback and player in Louisiana as well as the third-best athlete in the nation.
Stingley Jr. commits to LSU prior to his high school senior year
Stingley Jr. received over 30 offers from colleges across the country. Still, he spoke early on in the process about a close bond with in-state LSU. The Tigers made their offer during his sophomore season, and before his senior season, he made his commitment, tweeting: “In my heart I truly feel this is the right place for me. I’m all in!”
Although he was all in, there was still work to be done for Dunham. Having helped lead the team to a district title as a junior, they went back-to-back for the first time in school history with another title in his senior season. During those two title-winning seasons, Stingley Jr. contributed 14 interceptions in 20 games.
The versatile playmaker also snagged 24 receptions for 678 yards and 8 touchdowns in his senior campaign. Moreover, he contributed 192 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns.
Stingley’s exceptional ability to produce in the secondary and as a receiver saw him named Offensive and Defensive MVP. Furthermore, he earned first-team All-District honors on both sides of the ball. Stingley was named the Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018 and garnered an invite to the US Army All-America Bowl to the surprise of absolutely no one.
Stingley Jr.’s career at LSU
Having enrolled early at LSU, Stingley Jr made an early impression on the Tigers’ coaching staff. During spring practices, he was routinely the best defensive back. At the annual spring game, the true freshman snagged an interception on the game’s very first play. Stingley would earn the starting cornerback job for the 2019 season.
In addition, Stingley’s outstanding athletic ability allowed him to return punts early on. During his first three games, he averaged 14 yards per punt. As impressive as his returning ability was, it wouldn’t take long for opposing offenses to be subjected to his skills on defense. In his second career game against Texas, he broke up two passes, with another two coming against Northwestern State.
Emerging as a true lockdown corner
His emergence as a true lockdown corner came with his first career interception against Vanderbilt. It started a run of three consecutive games with an interception, with three more coming down the stretch of a national championship-winning campaign.
Stingley set an SEC Championship Game record with 2 interceptions in the Tigers win over Georgia. In the national championship, he helped lead a defense that denied Trevor Lawrence a touchdown for the first time in the 2019 season.
In a genuinely remarkable freshman season, Stingley led the SEC with 6 interceptions. Additionally, he led the conference and was second in the nation with 21 pass deflections. Naturally, the accolades came rolling in. Stingley was a consensus All-American, earned first-team All-SEC honors, and named the SEC Newcomer of the Year.
Having seamlessly transitioned from high school to college football dominance, expectations were high ahead of his sophomore season. With rumors that he could even see time on offense in 2020, whispers of a potential Heisman Trophy-winning year could be heard around the college football landscape.
A difficult 2020 season but high expectations ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft
A combination of injuries and the uncertainty of the global situation made a repeat of his freshman success difficult. Despite this, Stingley started the year with the same versatility that he’d flashed the year prior.
In the season opener against Vanderbilt, he returned 3 punts for 92 yards. The star DB also saw return duties against Arkansas, but that highlighted the danger of putting your most valuable player on special teams as Stingley suffered a concussion. He would also miss time during the season with a nagging leg injury.
Statistically, Stingley’s season showed signs of a sophomore slump. Yet, he amassed 5 pass deflections and should have had an interception against Alabama. Moreover, he secured his first career forced fumble against Auburn to go with 27 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss.
With an expected return to normality for the upcoming CFB season, Stingley Jr. should once again establish himself as one of the best in the game. He is a legitimate candidate to be the first defensive Heisman Trophy winner since Charles Woodson.
Prior to the start of the season, Stingley has been adorned with the prestigious No. 7 LSU jersey, awarded to the best Tigers player on the roster. There is no reason to believe that Stingley Jr. will end the season as anything other than a consensus early first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.