From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling a cornerback who has been considered a first-round pick since an All-American, National Championship season as a true freshman in 2019.
#7/24 Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (Jr.) — 6002, 190 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Derek Stingley Jr.||6002/190||9 5/8″||30 5/8″||74 1/8″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Excellent speed and athleticism, uses it to match athletic receivers along routes and to burst and undercut throws in off-man and zone.
— Lockdown corner working routes down the sideline, keeps favorable position on receiver and stays in his pocket.
— Positions himself in off-man (against receivers below him) and zone to keep eyes on the QB and his assignments, stay aware of where QB is looking to throw.
— Breaks quickly on throws when working a deep zone, can bait quarterbacks and close on throws with his speed and burst.
— Some of the best ball skills in the class, looks back at QB along route and very good at reading assignment to turn and find ball as it arrives.
— Top-tier reaction time to locate ball and make a play on it, even when turning late. High-points the ball and consistently beats his man to it in aerial battles.
— When he can’t deny or pick a pass, excels at ripping the ball from receiver’s hands, attacks every attempted completion while in the air and as receiver attempts to establish control.
— Became a more physical and active run defender and tackler as his LSU career went on.
— Lack of recent tape due to injuries costing him almost all of 2021 season, part of 2020.
— Gets beaten inside on short routes, doesn’t get physical to deny an inside cut and can be set up with a jab outside to turn his shoulders toward the sideline.
— Overcommits his hips in man coverage and can be beaten left/right, won’t be able to follow his man through the break point and opens up windows for short & intermediate-level throws.
— Not as physical a player as he needs to be. Doesn’t initiate contact or fire hands off the snap, will let receivers move without contesting physically or hand-fighting, and can be out-muscled by physical receivers to set up a throwing lane or to bring in a pass.
— On extended plays, will lose phase on his assignment when splitting focus between relocating receiver and improvising QB.
— Played three years at LSU, starting all 25 games in which he appeared.
— Started all 15 games as a true freshman, missed three games as sophomore with ankle injury and illness. Missed final 10 games of junior season with Lisfranc injury.
— Switched uniform number from 24 to 7 for final season, the number worn by former LSU DBs Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Grant Delpit.
— Consensus first team All-American in 2019, appeared on AFCA All-America team in 2020.
— Two-time All-SEC first team selection, 2019 SEC Newcomer of the Year.
— Appeared on Watch Lists for Bednarik Award (best defensive player, twice), Nagurski Award (best defensive player, twice), Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back, twice), Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player, twice), Walter Camp Award (player of the year, once), and Maxwell Award (most outstanding player, once) during his career. Was a one-time semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (2019).
— Career stats: 73 tackles (56 solo), seven tackles for loss, six interceptions, 26 passes defensed, two forced fumbles.
— 2019 stats (15 games as true freshman): 38 tackles, six interceptions, 21 passes defensed, becoming most-decorated freshman in LSU history.
— 5-star recruit, ranked top-three in his class overall, first among cornerbacks, and one of the top 100-rated recruits of all-time based on composite score.
— Chose LSU over Florida, Texas, had over 30 offers total. Grew up less than eight miles from LSU.
— Father Derek (Arena League) and grandfather Darryl (NFL) both played professionally.
Unlike other prospects who have a breakout performance in one of their final seasons or in a pre-draft event that vaults their name to Day 1 or Day 2 status in that year’s NFL Draft, Derek Stingley Jr. has been a name analysts and writers have eagerly awaited to see in the draft since 2019. That year, arriving on LSU’s campus as one of the highest-rated recruits of all-time, Stingley had one of the greatest freshmen seasons for a cornerback in NCAA history. Earning a starting job for the Tigers, Stingley picked off six passes, defensed 21 more, and was one of the team’s top defensive players as a true freshman as LSU went undefeated and won the National Championship. After that season, Stingley was someone considered not just a first-round lock because of his play, but one of the best cornerback prospects in a long time, and a future lockdown corner.
Stingley never got a chance to replicate that freshman season. Part of that was, with how well he played, quarterbacks avoided him at all costs. But Stingley also couldn’t stay on the field as a sophomore or junior, playing in only 10 games his final two seasons at the school. Despite the limited amount of tape available from his final two years (including playing in only three games in 2021), Stingley never left the first-round conversation because of well his first year went, and it was only near the tail end of the 2021 college season that his name began slipping from top five and top 10 conversation.
Without a lot of recent tape to go off of, scouts and teams will have to do some projecting when it comes to Stingley, and determine what type of player they feel he can be in the NFL, as well as whether he merits an early selection or first-round selection at all in the 2022 NFL Draft. That is why, more so than most prospect reports, a lot of Stingley’s film breakdown will come from his freshman season.
During that season though, and in his games the next two years, Stingley played primarily man coverage along the outside for LSU. Often drawing the toughest assignments, Stingley showed lockdown corner upside, particularly in his work defending players who stayed along the outside or who went straight up the sideline. A plus athlete with speed to match almost anyone he was lined up against, Stingley showed excellent instincts to keep himself positioned between his man and the ball along the sideline, while never leaving his defender’s hip pocket.
You’ll find Stingley manning the sideline throughout his tape, and here are two examples, first against Clemson in the National Championship as a freshman, and then in a game from earlier that season against Utah State.
The play against Clemson is less about the end result and more about how Stingley defends against Clemson’s Justyn Ross, himself a player thought of as a first-rounder in college prior to a serious injury. Stingley stays with Ross step for step while keeping inside position. One of his best traits working in man is how he looks back to the quarterback to stay aware of the play, and he does so as Trevor Lawrence delivers the pass. The pass is errant, but Stingley played the route well and was in position to make a play on the ball or at least deny a completion had the throw been on-target.
It’s more of the same against Utah State, Stingley working against Savon Scarver. Stingley puts himself in Scarver’s pocket and easily sticks with him down the sideline. Watching Scarver, he reads and recognizes a pass has been thrown (something else he does consistently well in man coverage), and turns around to make an outstanding interception, high-pointing the ball before Scarver gets up to make a play or contest the pick.
Stingley’s ball skills are NFL-ready, and helped produce those eye-popping numbers his debut season. Displayed in that Utah State clip, he has the athleticism to challenge for interceptions, and he times his leaps to get up and attack the ball at the earliest possible moment, often beating receivers to it in the air. He also benefits from split-second reaction time, where he quickly locates passes after turning and can make plays even if he doesn’t turn until the last possible moment.
This play from the 2019 SEC Championship is an example of that. Staying in-phase with Tyler Simmons down the sideline, Stingley doesn’t look back for the ball until it has almost arrived, but still reacts with enough time to intercept the pass, quite literally keeping himself between Simmons and the ball with his positioning.
Stingley’s reaction time also makes him an asset in zone coverage, despite not playing a ton of it at LSU compared to man. When lined up deep or defending zones beneath him, Stingley breaks on passes quickly and can get there in time to separate the ball from his man, and he is able to use his acceleration to bait quarterbacks into throws before undercutting and picking them off. Overall in zone Stingley is a strong defender thanks to his awareness and athleticism, and gets a chance to use his ball skills to make some big plays.
Stingley’s ball skills extend to more than just interceptions. He can accumulate pass break-ups through both defensing passes away from receivers, and through ripping the ball out of their hands when they are able to begin the process of a catch.
Here against Texas A&M in 2020, Stingley (top of the screen) does what he does best. He sticks to his receiver up the sideline, and when he can’t go for the clean interception, he keeps his position and has an easy swat to break up the pass. He does the same thing below in a 2019 game against Northwestern State, staying in-phase before reaching up to deflect the pass, in one of his best clips across nearly 10 games I watched (albeit against a lesser opponent).
When he can’t intercept or swat away a pass and his guy begins to haul it in, Stingley attacks the ball to pry it loose, like he does here against Arkansas.
Stingley also became a more active run defender as his time went on at LSU, and he showed improvement there and in his tackling year by year. He became a more physical player by the time he played his three games in 2021, shown in these plays against Central Michigan and UCLA.
Against UCLA, Stingley is lined up high near the X, and against Central Michigan, he is lined up at the top of the screen. Both plays, he breaks as soon as he reads the play, and uses his plus speed and acceleration to reach the runner behind the line. Against UCLA he makes a good tackle and hangs on to finish the play off, and against CMU he delivers a big hit to knock the ball loose and begin what ended up being a defensive touchdown.
For all the highlights on Stingley’s tape, he does have some areas he needs to improve on to reach his ceiling in the NFL, particularly off the line and defending routes toward or in the middle of the field that involve a break point. He struggles to follow his man through the break point on slants, outs, and similar left/right-breaking routes, and would often get his hips turned with a jab step outside, or turn them too soon himself and take himself out of being able to follow his man through the break.
This play against Vanderbilt serves as an example. Stingley is lined up in off-man coverage against the slot. As he shuffles to follow Kalija Lipscomb, he turns his left hip in as if to follow Lipscomb upfield or out left. That gives Lipscomb all the room he needs to get by, first heading upfield as Stingley tries to recover, and then getting extra space with his cut out to the right for an easy catch.
His struggles extend in tighter man off the line, where he gets beat on an inside slant by eventual first-round pick CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma. Lamb (lined up bottom of screen) sets Stingley up with a shuffle and slight plant step like he is going to go for a fade to the corner of the end zone, then cuts inside uncontested and has a wide open touchdown if he gets a better throw from Jalen Hurts.
Stingley has to improve on staying in position and following his man through cuts on routes, and not be a corner who excels primarily defending the sideline. Becoming more aggressive in chipping and fighting his man at that break point is one way to help with that, and Stingley has to become more physical when defending receivers in tight man off the line, as well.
Lamb above is able to get so open for a should-be touchdown in part because Stingley never challenges him or fires his hands at him as the play begins, the same issue he showed in the 2019 SEC Championship against Georgia, again matched up against Simmons.
Stingley doesn’t try to engage Simmons until after Simmons has already got off the line and cut inside, giving him an easy catch and first down. On plays like this in the NFL, Stingley has to get better at being physical and disrupting his man’s route. Overall he could stand to become more aggressive, and at LSU could be out-muscled by receivers to create space to bring in a pass when matched up with bigger targets.
Those stand out as Stingley’s only major weaknesses on tape, part of why his stock has remained so high over the last two years despite missing time. He could improve his ability to stick to guys on extended plays when both receivers and the quarterback are improvising to find some kind of play to avoid a sack, and similarly to how he can get his hips turned, Stingley also occasionally fell victim to getting his shoulders turned by a target, though far more rarely than the issues with his hips.
But overall, Stingley’s second big weakness is simply the lack of tape there is on him after his freshman season. He has to stay healthier to pay off being a high draft choice, and teams interested in selecting him in the first round will have to be assured that he will be able to stay on the field for a full season consistently.
When you watch what he does well on the field, Derek Stingley Jr. is one of the best cornerback prospects in recent memory, and a player who should be in the discussion to match or exceed being the earliest cornerback selected in NFL Draft history (No. 3 overall). He played at an All-American level, as a true freshman, at one of the biggest football schools in the country, and helped lead LSU to a National Championship. With his raw talent, ball skills, and athleticism, he brings a lot that makes you envision his being a true lockdown man coverage cornerback in the NFL from Week 1 of his rookie season.
But Stingley couldn’t stay healthy, and back-to-back injuries his final two seasons denied scouts a chance to see how he could build upon his debut across a complete three-year career, while also taking away a key chance for Stingley to show growth across two full seasons in the areas he needed to work on. There is more upside here than with any defensive back in the class, but for Stingley to reach it, he has to become a more physical player who can stick to his man through break points on routes, and better defend those shorter passes like slants and outs that he was beat on in college. And, as much as anything else, he has to be able to stay on the field for a full 17 games. But with his ceiling, any team in the middle to late first round with a need at cornerback should have Stingley on their shortlist of potential selections.
Projection: Mid-Day 1 (Round 1)
Depot Draft Grade: 9.3 (Pro Bowl Talent, Day 1 Starter)
Games Watched: 2021: at UCLA, vs. Central Michigan; 2020: at Vanderbilt, at Texas A&M, vs. Alabama; 2019: All coverage snaps