NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2021. This is the 10th and final entry in a series of scouting reports that has run throughout the offseason.
As a consensus five-star recruit hailing from Baton Rouge, Derek Stingley Jr. enrolled early at his hometown university in 2019 and immediately made a name for himself as a critical piece in LSU's national championship run. Starting all 15 games for the undefeated Tigers, Stingley led the SEC in picks (6) and pass breakups (15), earning consensus All-America honors as a true freshman. As LSU stumbled to a 5-5 record in 2020, though, Stingley suffered through an injury-riddled season. Despite being physically compromised and missing three full games, the sophomore still earned first-team All-SEC acclaim.
Heading into his junior season, Stingley predictably received the honor to wear LSU's famed No. 7 jersey, leaving his No. 24 behind to follow in the footsteps of Tiger greats like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Can this naturally gifted cover man live up to the immense hype?
After watching three of Stingley's game tapes from the 2020 season, here is my initial scouting report on LSU's star cornerback:
Height, weight: 6-foot-1, 195 pounds (school measurements).
2020 statistics: 27 tackles (19 solo), 2.5 for loss, five pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery (seven games played).
Game tape watched: at Arkansas (Nov. 21, 2020), at Texas A&M (Nov. 28, 2020), vs. Alabama (Dec. 5, 2020).
What I liked: I love Stingley's combination of size, speed and fluidity. He is a very easy mover without any hint of stiffness in his ankles or hips. He has the speed to mirror vertical routes -- and on the rare occasion he is out of position, he has enough juice to recover. He is at his best in press coverage. He isn't ultra-physical, but he does get his hands on opponents, which helps him feel and anticipate break points down the field. From off coverage, Stingley displays the instincts and knowledge to protect the sticks and drive on balls thrown in front of him. He doesn't waste steps in his transition out of his pedal and he displays an explosive burst to close.
Where he needs to improve: Staying healthy is the first area to keep an eye on during the 2021 campaign. He missed a handful of games in 2020, so scouts would like to see him navigate the upcoming season cleanly to curtail durability concerns. His ball production took a massive dip last fall. He picked off six passes as a true freshman in 2019, but failed to take the ball away once in 2020. He gave up some plays in the Alabama game, but I came away more impressed with the catches from DeVonta Smith than discouraged about Stingley's performance. Stingley was in position, but just got beat by a very gifted opponent who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and come off the board 10th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. I would also like to see the LSU corner play with a little more physicality, anger and edge.
Biggest takeaway: The NFL is a man-coverage league. Teams are starving for players like Stingley. With a little more experience and polish, he's going to be able to lock up top-tier NFL wideouts without much help over the top. Guys like this are very difficult to find. He will be highly coveted whenever he decides to enter the league.
He reminds me of: Marshon Lattimore. They have a similar build and similar movement skills. Both guys combine their physical gifts with outstanding instincts and awareness. I thought Lattimore was a little more physical coming out of Ohio State, but their games are very similar. Lattimore has enjoyed a very successful NFL career and I see similar success on the horizon for Stingley.
I can't wait to watch him play: vs. Arkansas on Nov. 13. I already expressed my affection for Arkansas WR Treylon Burks earlier in this First Look series. Stingley didn't match up against him very often in last year's meeting before leaving the game with an injury. Hopefully we get a chance to see them go toe-to-toe this fall. It will be fun to see how Stingley handles the A.J. Brown-like physicality that Burks brings to table. Scouts will be in a hurry to study this game upon its conclusion.