A consensus 5-star recruit and the top overall player in his class according to Rivals.com, Derek Stingley Jr. came to LSU with massive expectations which were immediately met in 2019 during his true freshman campaign. Stingley Jr. was dominant at cornerback while the Tigers went undefeated and won the National Championship.
That year, Stingley Jr. claimed consensus All-American Honors, was named First-Team All-SEC, and was the SEC Newcomer of the Year. He started all 15 games, ranked fifth in the nation with six interceptions, and was second in passes defended with 21. Despite it being his first taste of college football action, Stingley Jr. quickly emerged as the best cornerback in the country.
After that 2019 season, it felt like only a matter of time before Stingley Jr. was a top-five draft pick and the top defensive prospect in the draft. Fast forward to now and Stingley Jr. had a modest regression in 2020, tackling issues have been the prevailing theme early in 2021, and now he has a foot injury that requires surgery and he’s out indefinitely. The injury originally happened over the summer but Stingley Jr. was able to get healthy and play in LSU’s first three games. He re-injured his foot and had a medical procedure that will keep him out of action for an undisclosed amount of time. My guess is we have seen the last of Stingley Jr. in college football.
The Tigers saw a mass exodus of players after their historic run in 2019, including the likes of K’Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen, who declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, and Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Shelvin, who opted out of the 2020 season and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. All of those players featured limited college resumes but still left eligibility on the table to pursue the NFL. I expect Stingley Jr. to follow suit.
The question now is if Stingley Jr. has done enough after 2019 to cement his status as a high first-round pick should he be done for the season and declare for the 2022 NFL Draft. If you only consider what has transpired post-2019, the answer to the question is no. With that said, 2019 still happened and when combined with his pedigree, Stingley Jr. is still worth a top pick.
Stingley Jr. is a rare football player. He brings a blend of size, length, coverage instincts, fluidity, foot quickness, physicality, versatility, and ball skills that give him every desired trait to become a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. The 2020 season was a disaster for LSU and while Stingley Jr. didn’t come close to matching his play from 2019, the environment he was in made that a near-impossible task.
Following 2019, LSU 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. With so many new pieces around him, LSU’s defense struggled as a whole. There were coverage busts galore and between the inexperienced players and new coaching staff, the scheme was limited. Stingley Jr. wasn’t able to be as aggressive in coverage and the big plays weren’t nearly as frequent. He played reasonably well but expectations were extremely high.
LSU is 3-2 and its next five opponents come against currently-ranked SEC opponents. It’s unlikely the Tigers come out of that gauntlet positioned to compete for an SEC Championship or be relevant on a national level. While Stingley Jr. has indicated that he wants to return to the field as soon as possible, it’s more likely he will turn his attention to preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine and life as a professional.
Maybe he isn’t a top-five lock like he was destined to be following 2019, but his skill set is rare and he plays a premium position. Even if we’ve seen the last of Stingley Jr. in college football, he’s still primed to be an early first-round selection because of what he did prove in 2019. Like his former teammate Chase, Stingley Jr. accomplished enough and proved what he can do in the right environment. Stingley Jr.’s size, athleticism, ball skills, and instincts won’t find him waiting long to hear his name called next April.
- May 17, 2022
- May 17, 2022