Shadowing fast wide receivers, explosively matching their athleticism step for step while instinctively tracking quarterbacks’ eyes and the football, Derek Stingley Jr. is the consummate shutdown cornerback. Multiple NFL executives and scouts are enamored enough with Stingley’s skills that they’re calling him something else heading into the NFL Draft: CB1.
Is Derek Stingley Jr. CB1 in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Stingley Jr. has been projected by some league sources with as high a draft ceiling as the Houston Texans’ third overall pick, with just a few projecting him between the ninth and early teens as his basement in the first round. He has visited the Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, and New York Giants.
“When Stingley is healthy, there’s simply no better corner in the draft,” one NFL director of scouting told Pro Football Network. “He’s outstanding in every way we grade football players. Players like him don’t grow on trees. They’re rare for a reason.”
It’s a strong statement considering the presence of Cincinnati consensus All-American corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Still, the predictions carry credibility based on Stingley’s impressive ability and track record against elite competition in the ultra-competitive SEC, his NFL pedigree, and, importantly, his improved health.
“Stingley is incredibly talented, and a lot of teams feel very confident in him,” said Shrine Bowl director of football operations and player personnel Eric Galko. “Stingley is a great athlete who has shown he can be a dominant corner. He hasn’t gotten worse as a football player. He has gotten better. Stingley is a much safer prospect than people realize.
“He’s a great athlete with high character and the right body type. He won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called. The injuries are a short-term thing. Once someone is healthy, then they’re fine. The teams do a really good job of not overreacting to injuries. The medical is just one component of the total evaluation.”
An impressive body of work
As a true freshman, he started for LSU and led the SEC with 6 interceptions and 15 pass breakups. That performance led to him being named first-team All-SEC and a consensus All-American.
Stingley has an extensive football pedigree. His father, Derek Stingley, played in the Arena Football League, while his grandfather, Darryl Stingley, played in the NFL for the New England Patriots.
“I like Stingley,” former Chicago Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said in a telephone interview. “He’s really interesting. When he’s healthy, this guy is really good. There’s nothing he can’t do. He missed a lot of time. The key is, ‘What’s the character, and what does the team think about the injuries?’ I’ve been in eight draft rooms before with (Texans coach) Lovie Smith, and Lovie is a pure traits guy.
“Lovie is huge on ball skills, getting interceptions. A corner like Stingley that can pick the football off on a consistent basis is extremely valuable for Lovie’s defense. I like Gardner, too. One assistant scouting director I talked with thinks that Gardner is overrated, but I think he just likes Stingley better. Knowing Lovie the way I do, I think he’s going to look at Gardner much like a (retired Bears corner) Peanut Tillman. I think Gardner is worthy of the pick, as is Stingley. Both these guys are going to be quality pros.”
Proven explosiveness and improved health
Stingley has made a full recovery from a Lisfranc foot injury and proved that with a 4.37 40-yard dash at LSU’s Pro Day. There, he also had a 38.5-inch vertical leap and a 10’2″ broad jump, displaying explosiveness.
Some scouts clocked him at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Those numbers help prove that his foot is sound, as is his draft stock as a projected first-round pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert attended the workout along with Washington Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew and Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.
Stingley Jr. intercepted 27 passes during his high school career. He was a five-star recruit and ranked first overall by Rivals and a finalist for the National Gatorade Player of the Year.
At 6’0″, 190 pounds, Stingley has ideal size. The former blue-chipper missed all but three games last season due to the foot injury and had 8 tackles (3.5 for loss) and 1 forced fumble.
He had 27 tackles (2.5 for loss) and broke up 5 passes two seasons ago and was named first-team All-SEC while missing three games (two for an ankle injury and one due to an illness).
Why go with Stingley over Gardner?
“I think it’s more about scheme than anything else,” Galko said. “Stingley is more scheme-versatile and is such a talented, long, press corner. Stingley is a better athlete, but it’s more about playing in different schemes that value athleticism versus Gardner lacking anything. Gardner is an easier projection as a rookie, but Stingley has more upside for the future, in my opinion.”