Flashback to 2019. Derek Stingley Jr. was heralded as the premiere corner prospect in the future 2022 Draft class – and his numbers backed that up. As a true freshman he put up 38 total tackles (31 solo), 6 interceptions, and 15 passes defended. Those 6 interceptions ranked 5th in the country, while his 15 pass defenses ranked 4th. He was selected as a Consensus All-American, and was instrumental in the Tigers championship run.
After playing in all 15 games of the 2019-20 season, he’s managed to play in just 10 over the last two years due to injuries, and his draft stock has slipped. What do we see?
- Height – 6′ 0″
- Weight – 190 lbs
- Arms – 30 5/8″
- Hands – 9 5/8″
- Instincts – His Freshman year success was no accident. In College Football – especially the SEC – Freshman get bullied on defense. If you’ve got a stud Junior receiver, you’re going to try and get them lined up against your opponent’s weakest corner, who is often a Freshman. It only took a handful of games before opposing offenses realized it wasn’t going to be that simple against Derek Stingley. His game sense was great as a Freshman, and it’s sure to be even better now.
- Athleticism – While we didn’t see him at the combine, there is hope he performs at LSU’s Pro Day next month. There, he should be able to display his sensational athleticism for all scouts who aren’t yet convinced. As a corner, some of the most important athletic attributes you can possess include: long speed, good hips, fluidity, and ability to change direction – Stingley has all four with ease. His 6’0 frame and 30 5/8“ arms are exactly what you want in a young corner.
- Ball Skills – This pairs extremely well with his athleticism. His hands are active, his vision is crisp, and his anticipation is oracle-like. Looking back at his Freshman season once more, there really wasn’t anyone better on 50/50 balls because if Stingley didn’t intercept it, he knocked it out of the receivers hands. His ability to read a quarterback and predict routes based on looks and decoys made him impossible to fool.
- Health – This is the big one. In the 2020 COVID-shortened season, Stingley missed two games with an ankle injury. In 2021, after just three games, he required surgery to fix a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. Lisfranc injuries can have lingering effects due to damage to the cartilage surrounding the bones. While many players are able to return to the high level they played at before the injury, persistent pain, immobility, and weakness are a concern.
- Inconsistent – It’s a tale of two Stingley’s. After his phenomenal Freshman year, the next two looked off. There were moments where he looked genuinely confused, while in others there was a discernible lack of competitiveness, where it appeared he gave up on plays. His worst performances by far came against Devonta Smith and Alabama, as well as against Auburn – games where you would think the stakes were high enough that he wouldn’t throw in the towel on plays. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. He’ll need to sort that out at the next level.
- Tackling – This will get you kicked out of the NFL faster than most anything else. If you struggle to wrap up tackles – get off the field. Lucky for him, this problem isn’t uncommon amongst college-level defenders. Players are smaller and slower, so tackling is easier at that level. He will still need to figure it out for himself, as most defenders with pro potential understand the challenges the NFL brings and make significant strides to improve tackling by their Junior year. For Stingley, we haven’t seen it yet, but his frame will allow him to bulk up.
To me, he is still the best corner in the draft based on his instincts alone. As a Freshman in the hardest division within College Football he managed to look like a seasoned veteran. The Lisfranc injury is concerning, sure, but he won’t require the development that other corners in this class will.
Where Does He Land/Fit?
If he could have been drafted following his Freshman season, he would have been a Top 5 pick – maybe even Top 3, but not this year. I see him going anywhere from 10 – 16. As the current draft board sits, 4 of those teams – Atlanta, Minnesota, New York (Jets), and Philadelphia – could use help in the secondary.