By Charlie Campbell
Summary: During LSU’s dream 2019 season, the Tigers had a plethora of breakout stars, and perhaps the best player on their defense was freshman cornerback Derek Stingley. LSU had future first-round picks in edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson and linebacker Patrick Queen, but Stingley was perhaps their most clutch defender. At a school that is known for great cornerback play, Stingley was phenomenal, and he immediately put himself on the radar for the 2022 NFL Draft.
In 2019, Stingley recorded 38 tackles, six interceptions and 15 passes defended. He was then banged up as a sophomore but recorded 27 tackles and five breakups. Against Alabama, he had some issues with DeVonta Smith, but Stingley still played well overall as a sophomore despite the drop in production. In 2021, Stingley only played in three game,s recording eight tackles and a forced fumble. He suffered a foot injury in practice that required surgery and ended his LSU career.
As a cover corner, there really isn’t anything that Stingley can’t do. He is fast, athletic, long and fluid. Stingley has the speed and the agility to run the route and prevent separation. Stingley does an excellent job of staying in phase and not giving up false steps to allow distance to develop. He can flip his hips and run along the sideline while using his length and athleticism to close with impressive recovery skills. Stingley can handle big receivers or speed receivers while showing the ability to play press man, off man, or zone.
Stingley has the mentality of a No. 1 corner, meaning he is comfortable playing on the island and going one-on-one with receivers. He doesn’t need safety help and doesn’t panic when passes come his direction. With advanced composure and poise, Stingley stays calm to defend the ball, and he avoids penalties by not grabbing or getting too physical.
The ball skills that Stingley displayed as a freshman in 2019 were extraordinary. He did a super job of playing the ball and defending 50-50 passes. He timed his breakups perfectly and smacked away a lot of potential receptions. While he is adept at breaking up passes, Stingley has great hands and is dangerous to pick off passes. He high points the ball extremely well and is a natural at tracking passes downfield.
As we reported in the Hot Press in the preseason, a director of player personnel said they belived Stingley had the potential to be a better prospect than Jeff Okudah – No.3 in 2020 – and C.J. Henderson – No.9 in 2021.
That source went on: “Well, obviously it is super early, and we’ll see how Stingley plays this year. Perhaps everything changes, but right now, I think he is a more dynamic cover guy than Okduah and seems a little more talented than Henderson. Athletically, Stingley and Henderson are similar, but I feel like I trust Stingley more than C.J. They both had some plays where you are like ‘how did you give that up?’, but Stingley has less plays where he looks soft or disinterested. If I had to rate them right now, I would put Jaycee Horn first, Stingley second, C.J. Henderson third, and Okudah fourth.”
Considering Stingley barely played in 2021, that projection should hold true. NFL teams, however, feel Stingley can be inconsistent in coverage and occasionally give up some plays that he shouldn’t given his amazing skill set. He also could have some teams that lower his grade because of his durability and the medical evaluation. Multiple team sources say they see boom-or-bust potential with Stingley, so his grades and enthusiasm could vary greatly across the league.
Stingley has the skill set and ability to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL, and he could end up being one of the top cover corners in the league. Stingley needs has to stay healthy and get more consistent to deliver on his immense potential though.
Player Comparison: Marcus Peters. Both Stingley and Peters have good cover skills with size, speed and athleticism. They also have the ability to make big plays on the ball and play at an elite game-changing level. On the other hand, they also can have issues with consistency.
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