Derek Stingley Jr. immediately filled the hype of his recruiting status as a true freshman in 2019 as part of LSU's historic National Championship run. The Tigers were an offensive juggernaut and Stingley Jr. starred for the defense, where he collected six interceptions, logged 21 pass breakups, and secured 38 tackles en route to consensus All-American honors while playing a daunting schedule in his first taste of college football action. He was dominant and it felt like it was just a matter of time before Stingley Jr. was a top-five NFL draft lock once he was eligible.
Following the 2019 campaign, the Tigers program was gutted. They lost offensive coordinator Joe Brady, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, 17 starters, and several assistants. LSU returned the fewest starters of any national champion in the last 15 years.
While Stingley Jr. still played well in 2020, his performance didn’t measure up to the previous year. He had an illness early in the season, battled a leg injury when he was on the field, and eventually missed the final two games of the season. Between the injuries, lack of continuity, and notable dropoff in talent around him, 2020 didn’t provide an ideal stage for Stingley Jr. to perform at the best of his ability. With that said, he still performed admirably and was a First-Team All-SEC selection as determined by both the league’s coaches and press.
Despite the decline in play, Stingley Jr. still entered the season as the No. 1 player on my 2022 NFL Draft Board. He’s an exceptional talent that offers outstanding size, ball skills, coverage instincts, and athleticism.
When coupling the dynamics of 2020 with how things went for Stingley Jr. in LSU’s season-opener against UCLA, it’s time to have a conversation about how his draft stock could be impacted. Truth be told, Stingley Jr. is such an elite talent and the dominance he displayed in 2019 is likely enough for him to still be an extremely high draft selection.
Entering 2021, Stingley Jr. received the honor of wearing the prestigious No. 7 jersey, a number the program reserves for the member of the team who is a dynamic playmaker that measures up to those who have worn it in the past. Among previous Tigers to don the No. 7 are Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, and Grant Delpit.
Midway through the first quarter against UCLA, the LSU defense was facing a 3rd-and-1 with the score even at zero. Stingley Jr. triggered downhill and came up with a tackle for loss to force a UCLA punt and give the ball back to the Tigers’ offense.
Unfortunately, Stingley Jr.’s impact on the game took a turn for the worse as UCLA gained control of the contest, claiming a 38-27 victory which included several lowlights from Stingley Jr. He gave up a touchdown pass and missed three tackles.
Given how things are trending, it begs the question: Is Stingley Jr. on cruise control? Even if the answer to that question is yes, there’s a chance it doesn’t matter and Stingley Jr. is a top-five draft selection and the first cornerback off the board. It’s too early to make that call on the young DB, but if that’s the perception after a few more games are played, it could be an issue.
One thing that has to be taken into account when considering teams picking high in the draft is that they are typically underwhelming football teams. Whether it’s a team that had a poor season and is looking to turn the corner or there is a new regime in place and the franchise is being rebuilt, those teams are looking for foundational pieces of the roster that the team can build around. If Stingley Jr. is perceived to be on “cruise control” and simply trying to get through the season and go to the NFL, then they may consider other options they trust to come in with a different mental makeup.
The rising crop of cornerbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft is brimming with talent. As things currently stand, I have three cornerbacks among my top-10 overall prospects, 10 in my top 50 and 16 in my top 80. But the prospect closest to Stingley Jr. is Andrew Booth Jr. from Clemson, who is my No. 5 overall prospect in the class.
While Clemson fell to Georgia in Week 1, Booth Jr. was sensational. He conceded only one yard in coverage on 31 coverage snaps, logged a pass breakup, tackle for loss, and continued to showcase his elite competitive toughness on the field.
Like Stingley Jr., Booth Jr. was a consensus 5-star recruit and is immensely gifted. Every time Booth Jr. has stepped on the field for Clemson, his impact has been consistent, but he entered 2021 with just a total of four starts and about 400 career snaps played. The 2021 campaign will provide Booth Jr. the opportunity to start every game and play every meaningful defensive snap for Clemson. So far, he’s off to a great start which comes as no surprise.
It’s clear from watching Booth Jr. that he’s hungry and an elite competitor. In coverage, he doesn’t want to give his opponent an inch of cushion. He’s ultra-competitive at the catch point and is aggressive as a tackler. He’s enthusiastic about playing with physicality and his motor always runs hot.
Time will tell if Booth Jr. can unseat Stingley Jr. as the top cornerback in the class. They are both exceptional talents with all of the physical traits and skills necessary to become shutdown defenders in the NFL. But if Stingley Jr. cruises to the finish line while Booth Jr. continues to make statements, combined with the dynamics of the teams picking toward the top of the draft, the Tiger in orange could be the first one selected. This promises to be a fun race to see unfold.
- Jun 24, 2022
- Jun 22, 2022