Saturday, January 22, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. declares, remains high first-round prospect despite injuries

Derek Stingley Jr., one of the top defensive backs in college football, announced on Thursday in a post for the Players’ Tribune that he will forgo his senior season at LSU and enter the 2022 NFL Draft.

“Growing up as a kid in Baton Rouge, just a few miles from LSU, I always dreamed of playing for the Tigers,” wrote Stingley. “Hearing the fans in Death Valley, getting to have my friends and family watch me in the stands while I wore the purple and gold. It’s something I had always envisioned … and the reality was better than anything I could’ve imagined. I still remember that first Tiger Walk during my freshman year. I’ll never forget, it was my first spring game and I was so excited to finally get to walk that legendary route to the stadium. It was like slow motion, being with the team and seeing all the fans there. It was amazing. I soaked up every minute of it.”

Stingley made an instant impact as a true freshman during LSU’s run to the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2019. His 38 tackles, six interceptions and 21 passes defended were good enough to earn First-Team All-America honors from multiple outlets, including CBS Sports and the Associated Press. 

“I can’t say thank you enough to LSU and the fans for the support that you have given me throughout my time there, and how much I appreciate the moments we have shared together,” Stingley wrote. “They will never be forgotten. To my family that has been there every step of the way, thank you … your support means everything to me. I hope I continue to make you proud.”

Let’s break down what to make of Stingley’s decision now that his future has been determined. 

Draft status remains high

The follow-up to Stingley’s breakout freshman effort did not go as planned, as his next two seasons were marred by injuries. The standout corner appeared in just 10 games over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and he failed to haul in another interception during that span.  

Despite the recent lack of production, Stingley remains widely regarded as one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. CBS Sports’ NFL Draft prospect rankings put Stingley at No. 3 overall behind only Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton and Oregon defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux. CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson has Stingley going No. 7 overall to the New York Jets in his latest mock draft.

“The Jets already addressed the offensive line so here they take the best CB in this class, and perhaps in any of the recent draft classes,” Wilson wrote. “Stingley missed the final half of the season because of injury but that will have zero impact on his draft stock.”

Where LSU goes from here

First-year coach Brian Kelly has his work cut out for him in a big way. The Tigers had just 38 scholarship players in the Texas Bowl loss to Kansas State, and Kelly himself said on the game broadcast that his team needs to hit the transfer portal hard in order to be competitive in 2022. 

Freshman Damarius McGhee started vs. the Wildcats, and he could be a contributor alongside juniors Dwight McGlothern and Raydarious Jones next season. Several true freshmen could see time as well, including four-star signee Laterrance Welch. Cornerback is a position of need heading into 2022, so expect it to be a big focus for Kelly as he monitors the portal.

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