Just one year ago, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. was widely considered to be one of the two or three best players in the whole draft.
Stingley was a year removed from an absolutely dominant freshman season and hopes were high that he could return to that form in 2021. Instead, Stingley suffered a lisfranc injury that ended his season and left evaluators with more questions than answers. As a result, the once-heralded prospect has slid down draft boards. And while he’s still relatively well regarded, he isn’t widely considered a “top 10” player any more.
But are those questions justified? Could Stingley somehow be a sleeper?
The New York Giants could be in need of the type of traits Stingley has showed at LSU. Could his slide make him a value pick to help remake the Giants’ defense in Wink Martindale’s image?
Prospect: Derek Stingley (7)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2019), vs. Vanderbilt (2020), vs. UCLA (2021), vs. Central Michigan (2021)
Red Flags: Foot - Lisfranc injury (2021)
Games Played: 25
Tackles For a loss: 7.0
Passes Defensed: 20
Games Played: 3
Tackles For a loss: 3.0
Passes Defensed: 0
Best: Athleticism, feet, hips, technique, football IQ, run defense, physicality
Worst: Health, “grabbiness”
Projection: A starting cornerback with scheme versatility.
Derek Stingley Jr. has a good combination of size, athleticism, football IQ, and physicality to play the cornerback position at the NFL level.
Stingley typically aligned as an outside corner in LSU’s defense, though he moved inside to play the slot on occasion. He has experience in all manner of coverage schemes in LSU’s defense. Stingley played press and off-man coverage, as well as zone coverage and is comfortable in any alignment.
Stingly has an easy, compact, and balanced backpedal that allows him to gain ground with receivers without having to flip his hips too early in the route. When he does open his hips, it’s with an oily smoothness that gains ground throughout the motion. Stingley is perfectly capable of getting in phase with receivers and staying in their hip pocket throughout the route. He is a very savvy cornerback with a great sense for his position on the field and makes great use of his body position and the sideline to shrink receiving windows. He also does a great job of cueing off of receivers to turn and look for the ball, limiting his exposure to defensive pass interference calls.
Stingley is also comfortable in off or zone coverages. He is a great communicator before the snap, helping to limit coverage breakdowns on the back end. He also shows an understanding of offensive route concepts and has good discipline in picking up and passing off receivers in his area of responsibility. Stingley does a good job of keeping an eye on the quarterback and reads his body language very quickly. He is often breaking on the ball almost before the quarterback starts his throwing motion.
He is very physical at the catch point and does a great job of playing receivers’ hands. Stingley flashes great ball skills to come away with the interception – if not knock the ball away at the last instant.
Stingley has a surprisingly aggressive downhill trigger, at times appearing more like a box safety than a cover corner. He commits quickly and fully to defending underneath passes and comes downhill hard and fast. Stingley is also a competitive run defender who has good play strength to defeat blocks on the perimeter, and is a reliable tackler.
The biggest question regarding Stingley is his health and availability. He has only played 10 games in the last two seasons, leading to questions regarding his long-term durability. Stingley missed two games in 2020 with a lower body injury and was limited to just three games in 2021 thanks to a Lisfranc injury originally suffered in the summer before the 2021 season.
Stingley will also need to be careful with his technique during routes at the NFL level. He can occasionally allow his physicality to bleed over into pass interference. The NFL rules regarding contact beyond the first five yards are much stricter than the collegiate rules, and Stingley will need to be that much more disciplined to avoid hurting his team.
Overall Grade: 8.5
Derek Stingley Jr. projects as a starting cornerback with broad scheme versatility. He has the physical and mental traits to excel in any coverage scheme at the NFL level and should give his future defense the flexibility to mix and match coverages at will. Or he could give them the ability to stay in press-man coverage and challenge receivers all game long. Stingley also has the versatility to follow assignments on motion to the slot and remain an effective cover corner.
Of course, this comes with the disclaimer that Stingley will need to stay healthy, and that has to be a question for him.
Stingley’s recent history of lower-body injuries is a definite red flag and teams will need to do their due diligence with his medical reports. They’ll also have to balance that against the fact that when he is healthy, Stingley is a legitimate “shut-down” corner.
Stingley has the upside to be a dominant cover corner, but teams will have to decide for themselves just how much risk is associated with Stingley’s durability, and what their appetite for that risk is.