This series will feature the top NFL Draft prospects with insight from the beat reporters that covered them in college. This article is just a preview of the full interview which can be heard on the Deep Slant podcast.
Name: Derek Stingley Jr.
School: Louisiana State
Height/Weight: 6-0, 190
Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
Below is a portion of Deep Sidhu's interview with Tyler Nettuno, managing editor and writer for LSU Tigers Wire and USA Today.
Sidhu: Let's talk some Derek Stingley Jr. I'm very intrigued by him and we saw him at the Combine. He didn't really do much since he's been battling with injury. What are your thoughts on Derek Stingley where he might actually land in the Draft?
Nettuno: The thing with Stingley is he's in kind of an interesting position because you're talking about a guy with all the athleticism in the world. I mean, he's a really special player, just watching what he's done when he's healthy. But as you mentioned, he didn't participate in the Combine this week. He's still recovering from a Lisfranc fracture in his foot, which I'm not a doctor, but have heard that can be a tough one to come back from. So, he's still kind of recovering, hoping to be able to be a full participant at the Pro Day on April 6, so we may get to look at him and run through some drills next month.
But for the time being, he's a guy that came in as a as a true freshman. He was a five-star recruit, started every game for LSU during that national title run. And he had some absolutely unreal production that year. I mean, six interceptions and 15 pass breakups, I believe. For a true freshman in the SEC, pretty unbelievable. As much talk as that offense gets with Joe Burrow, the defense and Derek Stingley's play was a big part of that team's success.
I think he said at the Combine this week, he was targeted 90 times as a freshman and thirty times as a sophomore.
Sidhu: How much does that figure into the lack of interceptions? Is there something that can be read into it that he wasn't targeted as much after having such a great freshman campaign?
Nettuno: Yeah, I think that always plays into it. It's really hard to keep up production like that as a corner because, I think you see this in the NFL a lot too, once a guy gets a reputation as just a lock-down guy, you're not going to test him. When you're playing LSU, you just know you're not going to throw it to Stingley's side of the field when he's there.
I wouldn't personally be too worried about the production as much the last two years because between his health and his reputation, I think it makes a lot of sense why that dropped off. I think just with him, the biggest question is we haven't really seen this guy do it on the field in two, almost three years. So, I think there's a lot of questions there. But like I said, if he's recovered from that foot fracture and he's ready to go and can put up some good numbers at the Pro Day, maybe he'd be a Top Five pick if he had been completely healthy the last two years, but I still think there's a good chance he's Top 15 kind of guy.
Sidhu: At the Combine, Stingley said he's the best cornerback in the draft class when he's playing at his best, and he said it with a lot of confidence. So what does set him apart from some of the other cornerbacks in this draft class and what is the case for him being the best cornerback? Tell us some of the strengths of his game.
Nettuno: I mean, it really just comes down to the fact that he's just very unique in his skill set. It's really rare that you find someone that's, you know, he's got good size, he's six feet. I think he plays a little bit longer than he is. I think he's got a really good wingspan, just very fluid movement. So he's got the athleticism, he's got the size, he's got the ball skills. I mean, he really does have everything you look for in a corner. You just hope that he can develop, become a more consistent all-around player. Because in terms of coverage, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better coverage corner in this draft. As good as some of the other prospects are, I don't know if there's anyone that's just quite as talented as he is across the board there.
Sidhu: Stingley was a two-time First-Team All-SEC selection, and you mentioned him going up against Ja'Marr Chase in practice. I'd seen those clips as well. They really had gone viral, how well he covered Ja'Marr Chase back in 2019. What can you tell us about maybe the best game or the best matchup that you've seen of his during his time at LSU?
Nettuno: I covered him in person for the game against Florida in 2019 when I was working on the Gators beat, so I saw him in that game. And I mean, Florida had offensive success in that game but just throwing on him, he's just crazy. He made a great play at the end. He intercepted Kyle Trask - it was really the only mistake Trask made all game and it cost him the win. Just to see a true freshman in a game like that, like high-scoring offensive game, make a play at the end, it was pretty spectacular.
Sidhu: Obviously, the world got to see Derek Stingley at the podium and he's full of confidence. But what about cover in your time covering him, what has really stood out to you about what he's like off the field or his personality?
Nettuno: He's got that that kind of, I guess, edge you look for from a corner. When I think of the personality of a corner, I guess like my mind goes right to someone like Jalen Ramsey or something like that. And I think that he's maybe a little bit more reserved than that, but I think he's got that edge and that kind of confidence and he'll gas himself up and he'll talk some trash if need be.